So, Alana and Marko have managed to get free and clear of Wreath with Hazel safe and sound. It only took them eleven chapters, and the cost has been steep. Then there's Prince Robot IV. (Spoilers ensue.)

Since his introduction, High-Defness has been painted as a man haunted by what he saw in battle. Courtesy of Chapter 12, we see a sliver of it, firsthand. The prince was mortally wounded, and a rather cute medic mouse arrives with an unrecognizable wire injector and a roll of duct tape to literally patch him up and get him back on his feet. (I love this comic.) Also, please note his blue blood. Nice touch.

The field medic has a great bedside manner, and wins a ton of karmic points by saving her superior's life. Then the gas arrives, and our plucky field medic bursts apart. It looks excruciating, but at least it was quick.

These are the things Prince Robot IV dwells on, in his dreams.

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His wingman (ahaha), Gale, calls him to get a sit rep and remind him of the urgency of his situation: Robot's not allowed home until he recovers the 'abomination' that is Hazel, while his wife grows heavier with child each passing day. It's a tidy spot of exposition in case you're picking up this chapter as the first. (But why would you do a fool think like that?)

His Highness is determined. He sets down on Quietus, only to run into a walking pygmy seal in overalls, because of course he does. (We get the first of several gags at the writer's expense, here.) The seal dude suggests the Prince bring "bottles" with him, because all writers drink, ha ha.

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Cue D. Oswald Heist, who answers the door with a drink in his hand. Welp, clichés are there for a reason!

Kidding aside, I like Heist immediately. He's unflappable, articulate, and doesn't shy away from trash-talking his own work. He claims that A Nighttime Smoke was written in a hurry to collect a paycheck, nothing more; far from any inspirational propaganda to suggest a peaceful alternative to further bloodshed.

Prince Robot IV doesn't believe him for a second.

They navigate through... hazardous topics. Neither leaps to taking offense, because they both know there's a game at hand. It's kind of beautiful. And in faithful dramatic fashion, Prince Robot's got a foot out the door when he asks the question that cracks Heist's composure. Where, exactly, did he say his son died in battle? "I didn't."

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The Prince pushes the button again, provoking Heist to lose a bit of his temper, and draw a pistol. Prince Robot IV responds by shooting off Oswald's left kneecap.

Both these men have lost more than they thought possible, so they don't flinch from speaking in absolutes. When Robot IV bares his throat to the bleeding author, coaching him to the killing blow, he's fearless. Whether it's a bluff or not is irrelevant, because Heist is a dyed-in-the-wool pacifist. He would rather die than take a life.

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Case in point.

However, the Prince takes orders from his father, and no one else. He demonstrates one of the deadliest traits of all, in a hunter: patience. He sits himself down to get comfortable, and resumes reading A Nighttime Smoke. He's not going anywhere until the star-crossed lovers and their halfbreed show up.

Just one problem: They're already there, hiding in the attic. Hearing every word of what's going on, downstairs. Cripes.

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I'd be repeating myself if I touted the elegant work of Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples any more than I already have. But why not? The voices are distinct, and the characters are strong, distinct, different personalities. In terms of pacing, there's not a foot out of line. It's just about perfect. So yeah. I'll keep going, and fervently hope you pick up these comics (or trade paperbacks, at this point), because you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't. It's. That. Simple.

~

Casey Jones is a writer and a voiceover artist, and is grateful that none of his readers have ever kneecapped him.