If you've been keeping up with The Walking Dead comic books in the wake of the show's current downtime — not that long until Season 7 though! — then you're probably aware that the long anticipated The Whisperer War arc just kicked off properly today.
Things are going to get messier before they get better, and we've got a feeling not every major character is going to make it out of this one alive. On that count, at least, The Walking Dead never disappoints. Now is your warning: This post contains major spoilers for the freshly released The Walking Dead Issue 157, so don't click if you don't wanna know!
The Whisperer War, Part 1 of 6
In the wake of Alpha's death at the hands of Negan last issue, Beta leads the full forces of the Whisperers against Rick and the Survivors at Alexandria. Negan returns with Alpha's head, claiming that he had in fact been working for Rick this whole time.
Rick begrudgingly allows him to remain free to join them in the coming conflict against the Whisperers — with the promise of freedom in exile if he pulls his weight — but charges Dwight to keep an eye on him. And, as we well know, the tensions between Negan and Dwight run long, and deep.
Dwight, Rick, Jesus and Michonne begin gathering troops from the Hilltop and the Kingdom, and Dwight sets a troop strategy in place to hold a line against the Whisperers when they attack. Elsewhere, Eugene and his radio-pal Stephanie finally exchange their locations and Jesus and Aaron share a moment.
Dwight and his troops fan out to create the line of defense. But when Gabriel reaches the water tower outpost, shock falls across his face as he realises the sheer numbers that the Whisperers have come in, the skin-walkers mingling with the Walking Dead — a force so large even Rick can't stand against them.
The Six Part Variant Covers
The issue ends on that cheery note. But even if past history hadn't taught us that the Survivors weren't going to go down easy, the newly released variant covers for each Issue of the six-part The Whisperer War arc show that there's more fight left in the Survivors than ever.
The six "B-covers", penned by Arthur Adams and colored by Nathan Fairbaim, stitch together to form one fearsome battleground. And — though these are just variants — they could give away more than we expected. Let's take a look.
Parts 1 & 2: American Ninja Warrior(s)
Two of The Walking Dead's most formidable warriors — Michonne and Jesus — take centre stage for the first two panels. Michonne's got her trademark katana in her hands whilst Jesus wields a crudely constructed axe.
Issue 157 suggested that there could be romance blooming between Jesus and the wounded Aaron, but will he make it back this time? As for Michonne, we know she's out for blood against the Whisperers right now, after they killed and beheaded her sometime paramour, Ezekiel, back in Issue 144.
Parts 3 & 4: The Couple That Slays Together
The couple that slays together, stays together. This has never been more true that in the case of Rick and Andrea (sorry The Walking Dead show fans, Rick doesn't end up with Michonne in the comics).
In Issue 157 Rick expressed some of his secret worries to Andrea — that he's too old and not strong enough to lead anymore. She reassures him that he's needed behind the lines, but here we see him taking to the battlefield once more. Take note: A missing hand and a crippled leg aren't enough to keep Rick Grimes down. And can we talk about how badass Lone Ranger Andrea looks? Girl can rock a poncho.
Parts 5 & 6: Negan Fulfills His Promise?
These final two covers are perhaps the most interesting of the bunch. Here we see Carl, Lydia and Negan combating the undead — a little surprising to see Lydia, perhaps, standing now against her own people. But what's this? She seems to be pointing her gun at Negan's turned back. Has she discovered that he killed and decapitated her mother in cold blood?
Negan gazes out at the reader as he brains a Walker or a Whisperer, threat and blood clear upon his face. And from the looks of things he gets Lucille back, as he promised Dwight he would. This means he's more dangerous than ever — so was he just attempting to gain the trust of the Saviours in order to get his bat back? After all, we now know what Lucille means to him.
But of course, what Negan does after the Whisperer War is over is anyone's guess. We wouldn't count him out just yet, being a man not accustomed to following anyone — that is, if he can avoid Lydia's revenge. Not gonna lie, that would be one hell of a way for him to go.