WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead #180 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn and Rus Wooton, on sale now.
In The Walking Dead comic universe, few have experienced a tragic history as Rick Grimes. He’s lost countless family members, friends and allies in what can best be described as an anguished life in Robert Kirkman’s post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world.
Despite it all, he’s powered through, never losing faith and uniting communities like Alexandria and the Hilltop. But amid all this peace-building, Rick can’t forget all the despicable humans he encountered. Some of them pushed him to the limit, and as we’re currently seeing in the comics, left a long-lasting impression on his character.
This comes full-circle in Issue #180 when we find out that buried beneath his rugged exterior, that of a fearless leader and forward-thinking visionary, Rick might actually be transitioning into the series’ next villain.
Almost all the major antagonists in this book have had dark pasts which allowed us to understand why they became so bitter and selfish. Negan and the Whisperers (especially their leader, Alpha) are a few who pop to mind, but here, we see Rick exhibiting similar traits to this his very first nemesis, the man who coincidentally took the most from him: the Governor.
In Kirkman and Adlard’s current arc, the Commonwealth seems to be the perfect society, a paradise which Michonne has now moved to in order to be with the daughter she thought was dead. A Commonwealth contingent, with leader Pamela at the forefront, visits Alexandria in return to learn more and possibly offer them a chance to join. When Pamela arrives, though, her greeting is less than warm; as she rightfully says, it’s “intense.” Dwight leads Alexandria’s military out to intimidate her, but Rick wards them off. Still, he does tell Pamela her security forces cannot enter their compound, coming off very distrusting; something readers see earlier when he discusses the Commonwealth in secret with Eugene.
As Rick and Pamela discuss ideologies, he takes issue with how different hers is, namely the Commonwealth’s classist structure, which divides society into elites and a lower-rung which must now work its way back up. Rick doesn’t believe in such a system, and he plays good-cop/bad-cop with her as he pries, all while teasing Alexandria’s strengths as part of some strong-arm tactic. He makes it clear the wars they’ve gone through shaped their society differently, and in a chilling conversation, he tells Pamela maybe it’s time someone reshapes the Commonwealth’s modus operandi.
This is disturbing for a couple reasons. Firstly, it’s a veiled threat to someone who came in peace, curious about a potential alliance. Secondly, Rick’s behavior is similar to the Governor, as he comes off vengeful, paranoid and, perhaps most telling, hung up on the past. This is what led that reprehensible madman and his Woodbury army to wage war on Rick’s crew at the Prison, after pretending to be friends; a battle which claimed the lives of Rick’s wife, Lori, their baby, and of course, Hershel Greene.
What Rick’s basically telling Pamela now, albeit in a subtly hostile manner, is her people should fit Alexandria’s mold. But what he thinks of their way of life right now is inconsequential, because Rick’s not really listening or empathizing with the circumstances which shaped their haven. The former sheriff’s more or less laying down the law: it’s his way or the highway. We understand Alexandria’s leader is scarred, but just like how Brian Blake lost his family to gangs before turning into the cold-hearted Governor, he’s acting in a polarized and controlling manner.
Instead of brushing off Pamela’s interests, his disposition is pretty aggressive for someone unprovoked, as he embodies The Dark Knight film adage, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” This could well be the start of Rick becoming his own worst enemy; hopefully, someone in his camp pulls him back from this descent into madness, sooner rather than later.
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