It's unthinkable what effect a woman watching her husband get beaten to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat might have on her. It's equally disturbing to think about what may have brought that man with the wire-wrapped bat to do that in the first place.
Can there ever be anything resembling closure after something that horrific? The latest issue of The Walking Dead, on stands today, seeks to answer that question.
Even if you don't read The Walking Dead comic, you may watch the show. Even if you don't, chances are that you've heard something about "Jeffrey Dean Morgan beats some guys to death with a bat." It's an infamous scene from the comic, it was infamous on television (assisted by the "wait a long time to find out who died" shenanigans), and it was a huge turning point in the entire saga. Issue #174 of the comic, titled "A Solitary Life", finally puts the matter to something resembling rest.
The solitary life of the title is being lived by Negan, years after the bloody event. He's on his own, he's very much into gardening, swearing profusely, and talking to a makeshift grave for his dead wife...until he goes to scavenge a nearby barn and sees...a baseball bat.
He has a long talk at his dead wife's grave about the bat. His old Glenn-brain bashing bat, Lucille, is no longer with him. Of course, Lucille is also his dead wife's name. Is he freaking out because of losing the bat, or is he not over his wife? Does the bat remind him of all the horrible things he's done? Possibly all of these things are true, but before long he is wrapping the new bat up, that's right, in barbed wire.
That's when Maggie appears, gun drawn.
She's arrived there with Dante, and she promptly tells him to wait outside. Maggie makes sure that Negan remembers who she is, and he certainly does. He also remembers his actions, as he says, "...it's a luxury in this world to regret the things you've done...to have a quiet enough moment to allow the memory of your actions to horrify you."
Then he lays the real kicker-- "I'm sorry for what I did. I won't fight back."
Maggie is, understandably, speechless...but has no interest in any plots for sympathy. This is the man who brutally murdered her husband in front of her, and as she makes clear, that is her lasting memory of him. When she thinks of Glenn, she thinks of his screams, and a dangling eyeball. Still under the gun, Negan makes it clear that he isn't interested in sympathy, saying:
"It wasn't until Rick showed me the way...that we could actually make this world better...that we don't have to race to the bottom of what humanity could be in order to survive...that I started to realize what I'd done. My Lucille was dead...pretty much everyone anybody loved was probably dead...but it Glenn was your Lucille...well, that's a pain I'm all too familiar with."
He's crying over the last part, too. Maggie still isn't fully convinced, and the notion of beating Negan to death with his newly wrapped bat is even considered (continuing the cycle of violence), but eventually Maggie sees that Negan is shattered. She decides not to kill him, and he starts begging her to end it, holding her gun to his head because that would be so much easier. Maggie isn't going to let him take the easy way out, however. She decides to make him live with it.
Exiting the barn, seemingly having just relived the entire ordeal all over again, Maggie rejoins Dante and says that Negan "...wasn't worth it." She even gives Dante an unexpected kiss before grabbing her horse and telling him it's time to go home.
As for Negan? He is still very much alone, and cradling his new bat...before he lights a fire and tosses the bat into it. With the ultimate symbol of his worst possible actions burning behind him, he walks away with something resembling peace on his face.
For a comic (and television) world full of so much doom and gloom, it is a welcome respite to have an issue that is mostly all about hope. Hope that yes, the world is overrun with monsters, but that doesn't mean that we have to become monsters ourselves. Even if we've already become monsters, maybe there's a chance that we can change, and that the circle of violence can sometimes be broken. The television show is quite a ways away from getting to this, so it will be interesting to see if or when they ever cover these events...but if they do, it's bound to be a powerful episode.
The Walking Dead 174: "A Solitary Life" is available today, courtesy of Image Comics.