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Issue 96 is the ninety-sixth issue of Image Comics' The Walking Dead and the sixth and final part of Volume 16: A Larger World. It was originally published on April 18, 2012.

Plot Synopsis

As the Hilltop residents stare horrified at Rick, one woman screams that he killed Ethan. Rick calmly replies that Ethan tried to kill him and Gregory, and rhetorically asks what he was supposed to do. Jesus, trying to calm the situation, tells Rick things aren't as simple as they seem, but assures that he will explain everything. At that moment, Eduardo and another guard rush to the scene brandishing spears, and order Rick to put the gun down. Rick refuses to comply, pointing the gun at them instead for pointing their spears at him. Jesus, once again trying to calm the situation, orders everyone to put their weapons away. Harlan, the Hilltop's doctor, says they need to get Gregory inside to stop the bleeding. Rick offers his help, but Jesus tells him he's done enough. Rick asks what they're going to do with Ethan's body, but Jesus informs him they have a process. Andrea asks if Rick's in trouble, but Jesus assures her he isn't, and that the residents of Hilltop just aren't used to this kind of violence. Rick goes on to ask who Negan is and where he would be keeping Crystal. Jesus guarantees that if Negan has Crystal she's already dead, adding that there is a lot Rick doesn't know and that he'll fill him in, but not outside.

Later that evening, Jesus holds a meeting with Rick's group inside the Barrington house. Before they start, Jesus says he doesn't wan't to scare Carl, but Rick assures him that he won't. With that, Jesus informs them that the Hilltop has enemies, with Glenn sarcastically saying they gathered that much. Jesus elaborates that as soon as the walls were built, Negan showed up, the leader of a nasty group of people calling themselves the Saviors. Negan met with Gregory and made a lot of demands and even more threats. Gregory, not being the ideal man when it comes to confrontation, struck a deal with Negan which would see half of Hilltop's supplies being regularly delivered to the Saviors in exchange for the Saviors keeping the area around Hilltop relatively clear of zombies. According to Jesus' estimation, the Saviors are just a roving gang of maniacs on an unending killing spree, with rumors that they've killed thousands zombies already. Rick is dumbfounded that the Hilltop would accept the protection racket, asking how many members the Saviors have. Jesus replies that nobody really knows, and acknowledges that the situation is screwed up. Andrea thinks that's an understatement, as they're letting a guy who may not even be a real threat terrorize their community. Jesus says that it is what it is, adding that Gregory is good at many things but not so much at other things. He informs them that Negan has been seen in groups as large as twenty. Though he tried to track them to their home once, they saw him and he was barely able to escape. He explains that if the Saviors don't feel like they're getting half, or if they want to send a message, they'll beat up the team the Hilltop sends to the drop point, and sometimes worse, like today. He mournfully states that everyone at the Hilltop is too scared to stand up to the Saviors, so they work hard to gather things to hand over to the hostile group. Carl asks if the Hilltop will give their group half their stuff if they kill the bad guys, shocking Jesus. Rick agrees with Carl's sentiment, saying that confrontation has never been something they've had a problem with, and adds that they wouldn't even need half of Hilltop's supplies, just enough for all of his people. Jesus is interested in the proposal.

The Hilltop is holding a funeral for Ethan and Rick goes to pay his respects. A resident, Samuel, is offended by Rick's presence, and proceeds to punch him. He screams that Rick has no right to be at the funeral and that Ethan was a good man who was just scared. Jesus steps in between them and tells Samuel to back off, as Rick was only defending himself when Ethan tried to kill him, and until they can tell him they wouldn't do the same, they leave Rick alone. He says they can mourn Ethan if they want, but also tells them not to pretend like Ethan was anything more than a coward who attacked them.

In the morning, Glenn asks Rick about his black eye, so Rick recounts the event. Glenn notes that the cremations the Hilltop preforms make sense. Glenn goes on to state that he really likes it at the Hilltop. Though he admits the trailers aren't as nice as the houses in Alexandria, there is a lot more land inside the Hilltop. He adds that they're are a lot more jobs to go around and the community seems closer than Alexandria, even though it's larger. Rick agrees it's something special. When Andrea joins them outside, Rick kisses her on the cheek, surprising her. Rick explains that they're just enjoying the scenery. Kal comes out and informs Rick that Gregory would like to speak to him.

Gregory tells Rick to come in and shut the door. He complains about how painful his stab wound is, and asks if Rick ever had to deal with something like that. Rick tells him he's been shot twice and also lost his hand, though Gregory claims not to have noticed. He says Jesus informed him of Rick's proposition and that dealing with Negan is something they'd be very grateful for. Rick confesses that Alexandria doesn't have much to offer in the way of supplies, since they're running low on food as it is, so Jesus' trade agreement probably wouldn't work for them. Though eventually they might be able to contribute, Rick wouldn't be comfortable knowing that half of the supplies they'd give to the Hilltop would be going to a violent pack of killers. Gregory tells him Negan has been a thorn in his side for a while, and while he managed to achieve great things with the Hilltop, they've never been strong enough to face the Saviors. He explains that one of the reasons Jesus is so keen on bringing in new communities is to lighten the Hilltop's load, though it hasn't seemed to help, and over the last few months thighs have gotten worse. Rick reassures Gregory that they've dealt with Negan's kind before and that they know how to handle people like him. Gregory asks if fighting for the Hilltop would be Rick's group's contribution, and Rick confirms it's an option, adding that his group is dangerously low on supplies and taking something back from the Hilltop would help convince his people to fight. After briefly thinking it over, Gregory agrees.

Rick thanks Jesus for the food, deeming it more than generous. Jesus suspects Rick is starting to trust them, and Rick confirms, saying that the supplies the Hilltop gave will get them through the rest of winter, and that won't be forgotten. Jesus informs him that when the time comes to face Negan, Rick can expect him, Kal and a few others from the Hilltop by his side, saying they wouldn't want them to face the Saviors alone. Andrea asks what Jesus is talking about, and Rick informs her of the deal they made, planning to convince them to fight later. Michonne glares at him, but Rick is certain it's the right thing to do. After Kal and Jesus leave, Andrea asks Rick if he's really serious about the deal, which he confirms, somewhat annoyed at the question. Michonne feels lucky to have gotten out of there alive, as she perceives the Hilltop as terrifying, being led by a cult leader and giving offerings to murderers. Andrea, on the other hand, thinks the Hilltopers are pathetic, as she saw how scared they all were when Gregory got stabbed, shocking Rick. Rick says he sometimes wonders why he was chosen to be the leader. Most of the time he assumed it was because of his past profession, and he thought being a father played a big part in it as well, but it wasn't until now that he finally pinpointed the real reason: the way he sees things. He explains that every one of them saw something different in the Hilltop, be it something to love, ridicule or fear. Rick saw the future. Though not perfect, he believes the Hilltop is the start of something historic. He notes that the people in there don't live in fear and are completely incapable of dealing with the outside world. He thinks the Hilltop is a special place, made even more special by the fact that they need their skills, as Rick's group can be the backbone of the network they've built. He thinks they can turn Hilltop's population (almost 200 people) into an army, that would in turn protect them in the future from any threats, undead or otherwise. Rick dreams of a world without roamers, and believes Hilltop represents everything they've been fighting for, as he thinks it's one step closer to rebuilding civilization. If they help the Hilltop, he believes, they can stop surviving and finally start living.

Credits

Deaths

  • None

Trivia

  • First appearance of Samuel.
  • Last appearance of Ethan. (Corpse)
  • This issue concludes the second compendium of the series.
  • This issue and Issue 97 mark the halfway point in the comic's 193 issue run.
  • This was the last Walking Dead issue released before the first episode of the Video Game release, 6 days after this issue was published.

External Links

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