Negan Lives! #1
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics / Skybound Entertainment
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
The biggest monster in the Walking Dead makes his return in Negan Lives #1, as writer Robert Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard return to their zombie apocalyptic world to show the rest of us comics people how it's done. As a benefit to local comics shops, Kirkman and company are already doing the industry a massive favor, giving 100 percent of their revenue to retailers — but as a comic, it's also a reminder of just how consistently good and well-crafted this series was.
When Kirkman and Adlard left Negan in the pages of The Walking Dead #174, the baseball bat-loving, expletive-wielding former big bad had been left to his own devices, forgoing both his drive for murder as well as his deep desire for someone else to punish him for his sins. And if you liked Kirkman and Adlard's work in that previous issue, you'll find lots to love about this one-shot, as we see what Negan has been up to since we last left him.
The answer — at least at first — is more of the same, serving as a fitting companion piece to the aforementioned issue. Kirkman keeps readers on their toes, of course, with our antihero's creatively filthy language (given that Negan has probably the most versatile use of the F-word since The Boondock Saints) as a funny, loopy counterpoint to the crushing sense of isolation and loneliness he's feeling. Of course, Negan isn't the only person making ends meet after the end of the world — his first meeting with a young woman has you questioning Negan's sanity just as much as he is, but when the other shoe drops, the result is a burst of horrific violence in pure Walking Dead fashion.
Adlard, meanwhile, hasn't skipped a beat since The Walking Dead wrapped, and the sheer acting and expressiveness he gives his characters is one of the prime reasons the series worked as well as it did, for as long as it did. There are lots of little details to the way he and Cliff Rathburn render the series, which makes new characters like Lucy feel all that more otherworldly — Negan is a hot mess of stubble and dirt, and it makes sense to see him be disarmed by someone who looks seemingly from a totally different time. Yet when the undead come knocking, Adlard really leans into not just the horrible-looking zombies, but the sheer wide-eyed horror of their victims — it makes for some truly tense sequences that ultimately remind us no matter how bad the zombies are, Negan might just be more dangerous.
While newcomers to the Walking Dead franchise might not necessarily get all the internal references or even the true gist of a such a conflicted maniac, Negan Lives! #1 is like watching Jordan do a victory lap — these guys were at the top of the comics industry for so long for a reason. And even if this one-shot teases a narrative that we might never see the conclusion to, given the strong storytelling on display, one can only hope the charitable efforts behind Negan Lives! #1 brings comics shops some much-needed relief.