[This story contains spoilers for the Walking Dead comic book series.]
So, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have officially broken up. Now what? "All-Out War," that's what.
It's the name of the 12-issue arc featured in the Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard comics on which AMC's The Walking Dead is based, bound to serve as the basis for the upcoming eighth season. With several months standing between now and the next new hour of Walking Dead (which is its 100th episode, incidentally), here's a preview of what to expect from season eight, based on how "All-Out War" plays in the comics.
The war begins with Rick and his allies rolling up to the Sanctuary, firing shots into the air and declaring loud and proud their intention to take down Negan and all the other killers living among the Saviors. Negan counters by presenting Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who announces that the Hilltop won't be supporting Alexandria in the war. It's enough to convince eight Hilltoppers to flee (nine if you include Gregory), but the rest stick around, which leads to the first official exchange of gunfire in the conflict.
This is right around the time that Holly, ex-girlfriend of the late Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), steps in and takes Rick's place in a sacrifice play against the Saviors — much as Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) does for Rosita (Christian Serratos) toward the end of season seven. Negan is thrilled to have Holly in his possession, mistaking her for Rick's girlfriend, Andrea, long dead on the show but very much still alive in the comics at this point. What happens to Holly in the comics is very similar to what happens to Sasha on the show, from the swift arrival and swifter departure of "Rapey Dave," to the utilization of Holly's zombified corpse against the Alexandrians.
Meanwhile, Gregory returns to the Hilltop with the others who defected from the battle, and he's not quite coming back with hat in hand. He insists that Rick's actions are going to get everyone killed. Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) disagrees, slamming Gregory with a public beatdown, followed by a speech that solidifies her status as the leader of the Hilltop.
Elsewhere, Rick and his allies continue the war, which naturally leads to some casualties, including Aaron's (Ross Marquand) boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), King Ezekiel's (Khary Payton) loyal lieutenant Richard (Karl Makinen) — and even Ezekiel's pet tiger Shiva, mauled to death by a pack of walkers. That's one way to take care of the show's CGI tiger budget. Shiva's death sends Ezekiel into a spiral of self-loathing, temporarily unable to shake the feeling that all of this blood lands squarely on his hands.
There's hardly any time to mourn these lost parties before Negan brings the fight to Alexandria. He unleashes a zombified Holly on the community, and she proceeds to bite Denise (Merritt Wever), long since dead on the show. Heath (Corey Hawkins), who went missing on the show earlier in season seven but who is alive at this point in the comics, loses a leg in an explosion in the middle of the fight. Denise, Heath's girlfriend in the comics, dedicates her final few hours to saving her boyfriend's life. Maggie and the Hilltoppers show up and stop the Saviors before they can completely eradicate the Alexandrians, but the billowing smoke stemming from the community leads Negan to a bold declaration:
There's truth to Negan's words, especially when he scores another immediate win in the form of capturing Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt). While the mulletted mad scientist of the zombie apocalypse easily surrenders to Negan on the show, the Eugene of the comics isn't quite so craven. He's in the middle of manufacturing ammunition when he's kidnapped by the Saviors, and he refuses to cave into the request to build bullets on Negan's behalf. Eugene even manages to escape, thanks to some help from some sympathetic Saviors. But it's not an issue for Negan, who has another idea: he commands the Saviors to dip their bullets, arrows and other assorted weapons in zombie gore, which they will then use to infect their enemies. Pretty gross.
From there, Negan ambushes our heroes at the Hilltop, unleashing holy hell upon Rick and the others. Things take a turn for the worse when Dwight (Austin Amelio), who up until now has been acting as a double agent for the Alexandrians, shoots Rick with an infected arrow ... except the arrow isn't infected after all. Several individuals die from wounds sustained in the rudimentary biological warfare, but not Rick. It turns out that Dwight's on Rick's side after all, and merely shot Alexandria's fearless leader in order to fool Negan into assuming Rick's days were numbered.
Confident in his victory, Negan rolls up again and offers terms of surrender. But surprise! Rick's still alive, and he has a few more tricks up his sleeve. He meets with Negan and tries a new tactic: reason. He lays out his vision for the future, and points out that Negan's way of life simply won't work if everyone's to live in harmony. Surprisingly, Negan agrees. Rick's argument is so sound, that even Negan can't deny that it would be better if everyone worked in concert with one another, rather than living in fear of one organization. And just as Negan starts to see the light ...
... Rick makes his move, slicing Negan's throat, which initiates the war's final battle. Negan passes out from blood loss, but not before breaking Rick's leg. When the chaos settles down, Rick commands his doctor to heal Negan up. The war ends when Rick confronts a bed-ridden Negan, reiterates his plans for the communities moving forward, and clarifies Negan's role in things: he will rot in jail until he dies an old man. The following issue of the series jumps a few years into the future, where much has changed — but not Rick's stance on Negan, who remains very much behind bars after all this time.
How much of the "All-Out War" arc from the comics will make its way onto the show? Some of it already has, of course, while other major events are likely still to come, almost certainly via the remix approach that's become a staple of the show. Indeed, if the AMC drama wants to keep its version of Shiva alive? No one's going to argue against that.
What are your thoughts on the "All-Out War" arc? Let us know in the comments below, and keep checking with THR.com/WalkingDead for news, interviews and more.