Well, damn. I want to go on record saying I'm reviewing this issue under duress. I'm not happy about it. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have done their usual bang-up job of introducing characters we like, only to rip 'em out of our hands. The Vaughan giveth, the Vaughan taketh away. Damn. (Spoilers, explicit material, and harsh language ensue.)

Last issue, our intrepid journalists poked the wrong hive. As a result, the busy bee took out a hit on them seconds after they were out the door. This issue begins with an immediate follow-up on that situation. Freelance assassins won't kill journalists— or at least, they're not supposed to.

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Which is why they get a warning. Upsher and Doff awaken to a blood-red Saint Bernard that fires poison darts out of its nose, because of course it does. (These Freelancers and their partners. It's adorable.) The poison won't kill them, unless they talk to anyone about Alana, Marko, and their bouncing baby 'bomination.

That's just it though: Unless they talk. Upsher and Doff communicate telepathically. Their thought bubbles convey every word, without it reaching their vocal cords. Ordinarily I wouldn't be so pedantic, but I wouldn't put it past Vaughan to leave loopholes in how his magic works. I'm hip to your sly workings, Mr. V.

On Quietus, we've caught back up to the present. His Royal Hi-Fi-ness, Prince Robot IV, is interrogating the newly-kneecapped author. Gwendolyn needs Marko's healing mojo so she's closing in but quick. Crap crap crap crap crap.

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Klara's her usual charming self, of course, badmouthing Izabel. Below, Heist remains strong, while the Prince loses patience. (It's a credit to Fiona Staples' handiwork that she can imbue so much personality into a grey-skinned person with no face.) Alana, who's been far more decisive in the past, is crippled with doubt. They have a family to think about, now. She has no idea what to do.

On his ship, The Will's at Death's door, leaning pretty hard on the doorbell. He passes ownership/partnership of Lying Cat onto Sophie, which seems pretty damn final. His eyes roll back and The Will stops talking. If he isn't dead, he's fucking close.

On the ground floor, the Prince and the author get personal. Heist asks a direct question, since Robot's been probing Heist about his latest work: The Opposite of War. Robot's been mortally wounded, before. Heist asks him: "What did you see?"

See for yourself. The Prince understands Heist's meaning. The Opposite of War is not peace. "Because the opposite of war... is fucking." I think it's relevant that Robot still holds Heist's pages while he has this epiphany. The scribe was getting through to him.

Well. At least before Klara came down the stairs and threatened him with an axe. Nothing says 'escalation' like putting two battle-hardened, armed racists in the same room. Things fall apart pretty quickly from there.

The Prince drops the pages and fires on Klara. Noted pacifist D. Oswald Heist opens fire on the Prince, leaving him inert and blue-screened in the face. Gwendolyn kicks open the door.

Y'know... there are times I really hate this comic.

Fuck. I liked Heist. I liked Heist a lot. He was funny, articulate, compassionate, and wise. And now he's dead: killed by a woman he's never met, who blundered into a situation she didn't fully grasp.

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Lying Cat wastes no time pouncing on Klara, claws out. Oswald's bookshelves burn, while the gravity of the situation sinks in for Gwendolyn.

On the floor, the Prince slowly reboots.

Damn it.

Was this a good chapter? No. It was magnificent. Artwork should make us feel something, IMO. Saga #17 accomplishes that with aplomb, the colorful son of a bitch.

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I've been dreading this chapter since I started these reviews. Now it's here. Now Heist is dead, all over again. Crap.

Leave comments and questions below. I... I need to go for a walk.

~

Casey Jones is an author and voice-over artist, and he never, ever enjoys killing his darlings.

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