WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead #175 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn and Rus Wooton, on sale now.
The events that occurred before Rick wakes up from his coma in the first issue of Image Comics' The Walking Dead have been explored rather sparsely considering the massive cast of characters who populate the world of the series. One such exploration came in the form of a 2016 digital one-shot from writer Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Paper Girls) and artist Marcos Martin (The Private Eye, Barrier), titled The Walking Dead: The Alien.
The Alien told the tale of Rick Grimes’ younger brother Jeff as he tries to escape Barcelona, Spain while the world spirals into chaos around him. The ending of the comic is ambiguous to a certain a degree (it was written by Vaughan, after all). Jeff meets a woman named Claudia, who plans to escape the city by boat. The duo make it to the vessel, but are ambushed. While Jeff saves Claudia from their undead attacker, he's bitten in the process. The final pages show Jeff sitting on the edge of the boat, blood trailing behind it, as he asks Claudia to find his older brother, Rick. It is strongly implied that Claudia has also been charged to brain Jeff with a mace once he turns.
One could interpret the ending as finite -- but is it? We’ve seen characters in both the comic series and television show survive bites. If Claudia can find something in that boat to amputate Jeff’s leg and cauterize the wound, she might be able to save his life. Sure, it’s a long shot, but this notion isn’t totally predicated upon conjecture and wishful thinking.
In a recent edition of Walking Dead's letter column, “Letter Hacks,” Skybound’s Editor-in-Chief Sean Mackiewicz responded to a reader’s question regarding Rick getting a new “bro” that may hint at Jeff’s survival. Now, the replies by Robert Kirkman and his crew in The Walking Dead's letters section have always been cryptic and obtuse, because, say what you will about comic, it is never lacking twists that seem to come out of left field, and the creative team likes to keep it that way, but this time, there appears to be a genuine indication that the Grimes family may actually be growing rather than shrinking.