WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead #185 by Robert Kirkman, Charles Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Rus Wooton and Cliff Rathburn, on sale now.
In The Walking Dead books, few villains have captured the attention of fans as strongly as Negan. While the pompous, sadistic tyrant broke hearts when he smashed Glenn's head in with his baseball bat, Lucille an act which cemented his status as one of the most hated characters in comics ever, he's defined by far more than that moment, having rained violence and misery down on the series' cast for years.
This vile nature has also been translated to the television series thanks to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, actions which have led to his current imprsonment for his crimes in Alexandria. But while the show is still some ways off the comics, we're finally getting to see who Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Co. have selected as his successor, and it's none other than Negan's former right-hand man: Dwight.
This turn has been foreshadowed in recent arcs, especially with Rick's alliance coming across the Commonwealth, a utopian society that has its own problems in terms of classism and elitism. Dwight spots this civil unrest and has secretly been brewing a civil war, luring people from the Commonwealth's lower-class to his cause, with Rick none the wiser. In this issue, he confesses his plan in full to Rick; he plans to use this secret army, plus the faithful from Alexandria, the Kingdom and Hilltop, to seize power at the Commonwealth, with the goal of turning it into the dream they all had.
Now, this is problematic because as skeptical Rick is of this paradise, he doesn't want an unnecessary war. Nor does he want to kill the upper-class, or anyone for that matter -- innocent or not. Dwight, though, is acting just like Negan did when Rick first met the dictator, and this is scaring the daylight out of him. Rick managed to rehabilitate Negan, so to see Dwight, someone he thought turned to the light as well, exhibit this behavior really is a nightmare as he knows another Negan-esque influence will undo everything they've all worked so hard to achieve.
Make no mistake, Dwight is now embodying every aspect of his former mentor. When Negan had him leading the Saviors, Dwight confiscated food, weapons, women and other resources from the alliance, simply because they could. There was no discussion; anything they laid claim to was theirs. Rick sees this cycle starting anew as Dwight makes it clear: The Commonwealth has more, so they ought to take from them. It's Negan's philosophy.
Despite Rick's protests, it's clear Dwight wants to lead the Commonwealth's masses and execute the elite, immediately. Dwight's playing off the poor and desperate, just like his ex-boss did. But what's truly shocking is how quickly he's assembled his own little band of Saviors. The fact that he's talking about genocide right off the bat is highly disturbing, leaving Rick wondering how he managed to lose Dwight after years of seeing him become a better man, and shaping him into a leader in his army.
Well, it's certainly a step back for him, and it'll be interesting if he ever comes face-to-face with Negan again. The latter has left Alexandria for a loner's life on the road, repenting for his sins. But even with Negan no longer a presence in his life, Dwight has finally become what the leather jacket-wearing sociopath groomed him to be; all he's missing now, is a bat wrapped in barbed-wire.