Many fans of The Walking Dead are likely clamoring for Negan's death after the events of the Season 7 premiere. He introduced himself with all the flash and circumstance one would have expected from him, ready with mind games and speeches and threatening nursery rhymes. He killed not one but two of Rick's crew, the ever-dependable Glenn and Abraham, and he shredded Rick's sanity by nearly forcing him to lop off Carl's arm. Then he dragged Daryl off as a prisoner. While there are plenty of fans who enjoy Negan's dangerous humor, others are sure to be wondering just how much longer they'll have to put up with his cruelty. Do the comics provide any hints about Negan's fate? Does Negan die in The Walking Dead comics?
Unfortunately, Negan does not die on paper, at least not yet. In the face of Negan's violence and control, Rick decides to handle things differently than he might have before; instead of killing Negan, Rick has him locked up in a basement cell for two years, according to the comics. It's uncertain whether this will be Negan's fate on the show as well, but if it is, it's sure to be a controversial choice. After watching Negan destroy everything in his path, who wouldn't be just a little hungry for vengeance?
Fans were already growing restless over Morgan's life-sanctifying morality, despite the fact that it can feel a little odd to actively root for characters to kill each other. Does wishing death on Negan, a fictional character, make audiences as bloodthirsty as he is? It was the show, and the network by extension, who courted that kind of response, setting up ad campaigns and hashtags to build up the excitement over just who Negan would slaughter. The Walking Dead has created a world where justice and brutality can be indistinguishable from each other.
Rick may end up trying to delineate those concepts more clearly by keeping Negan alive but powerless, though it also leaves room for more trouble down the line. In the comics, Negan is able to escape, and who knows what horrors he might visit on everyone when he shows up again? However, just because this is Negan's fate in the comics doesn't necessarily mean it will be the same on the show. There are certainly hints that it could come to pass – like Morgan's painstakingly built cell, which stands empty – but after the hours of trauma inflicted on Rick and his people, would it be enough to lock Negan up?
Seeing the ordeal play out in live action was a lot more visceral than on the page, and a lot harder to stomach. It's difficult to imagine Negan in jail will function as a satisfying conclusion, but that is perhaps part of the story being told on the show. It's about what kind of world these characters want to create after they've lost everything – a world as dark as their current reality, or one with the hope of something different, something better?