[Warning: This story contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Deluxe #56.] The Walking Dead comic book readers remember Abraham Ford as a man on a mission: the former U.S. Army Sergeant who thought he was saving the world by escorting Eugene Porter from Houston to Washington to end the zombie apocalypse. A brave and brawny badass, the headstrong Abe butted heads with Rick Grimes and his group of survivors over their tactical approach to living in a dead world. But like a good soldier, Abe did his duty as Rick’s right-hand man and enforcer until he was KIA.
But what if Abraham Ford was a villain? It almost happened. In issue #56 of Image’s colorized reprint series The Walking Dead Deluxe, writer and creator Robert Kirkman reveals he considered making Abe a bad guy:
“This issue was a roller coaster to write,” Kirkman writes in the latest edition of The Cutting Room Floor. “I was genuinely considering making Abraham a bad guy for a lot of it. It could have gone either way. It wasn’t decided until I finally got to the end of plotting the issue that I decided to pull things the other way a bit.”
The issue opens with tensions flared: Glenn has just found Maggie hanged by a rope in an apparent suicide, and Abraham wants to put a bullet in her brain before she can reanimate. When a fight breaks out between Glenn and Abe, Rick pulls his gun with a warning: “You pull your trigger — and I’ll pull mine. Leave the girl alone.” But Maggie lives, suddenly springing awake and leaving Abe shaken over his nearly fatal mistake.
“Right or wrong,” Abe warns Rick, “next time you point a gun to my head, I’ll f—ing kill you. Got it?” Facing off with Abe, Rick tells him: “Next time you make me put a gun to your head, I won’t hesitate to blow your f—ing brains out.”
The next day, Rick breaks away from the group to relieve himself and is caught off guard by a walker. Abe takes his time before shooting it dead, saving Rick’s life. “You should be more careful, friend,” Abe says. “It’s dangerous out here.” In private, Rosita finds Abe trembling with rage over his confrontation with Rick.
Abe admits he saw Rick leaving camp and followed him, but he doesn’t know whether he had his gun on Rick before he was attacked. “You gotta help me, Rosita,” Abe begs. “Oh, Jesus… Don’t let me kill again.” As he falls into Rosita’s arms, the issue ends on Abe the most vulnerable we’ve seen him.
“You really get a sense of the regret and shame Abraham feels from that one panel,” Kirkman writes in Cutting Room Floor. “One single image tells so much. That’s the [artist] Charlie Adlard magic we all know and love.”
The Walking Dead Deluxe #56 is on sale now from Image Comics.