Of the issues I've reviewed so far— and the series as a whole, as we catch up— I think I can safely say that chapter 15 is my favorite. It barely wins out, the whole series is excellent. But in terms of ingredients coming together, things really cooking, and seeing how the progression of time lets things unfold... it is gorgeous. I give you chapter fifteen. (Spoilers below.)
Things get off to their usual abrasive start with Countess Robot X, encountering our semi-aquatic reporters, Upsher and Doff. They're all straight to the point, they're investigating Alana. She was a soldier under the Countess, and was reprimanded for hesitating to follow orders. The conversation is cut short when sniper fire cuts through Upsher's shoulder like paper. Never one to employ half measures, the Countess has the crow's nest obliterated from orbit. (It's the only way to be sure.)
On Quietus, Alana folds laundry. Her domestic duty's interrupted by Izabel, floating through the wall. Marko's laughing. Visibly happy for the first time since his father's death, Marko watches as Oswald and Klara stumble their way through Nun Tuj Nun, the "greatest board game in the universe." Alana joins in, making it two against two.
On the paradise planetoid, an anthropomorphized fox and a colossus with a welding torch finish repairing The Will's ship. (I love this comic.) The Will is curt to the point of rudeness, so
Slave Girl Sophie offers the fox man a snack for the road: a roasted skewer of local flora and fauna. The Will ignores The Spectre!Stalk that's been trying to talk him into staying put for the last two issues. He's going to finish what he started.
Gwen is pleased. The Spectre!Stalk, less so. The Will notes that Sophie's wandered off. Gwen volunteers (with Lying Cat) to go find her. Her body language suggests she's softened to him considerably, since they first met. "Smile for fuck's sake," she says. That won't end well. (No, really.)
Back on Quietus, Alana barely beats Klara at arm wrestling. It's a much-needed bonding moment, Klara would have been offended if Alana let her win. Now for the Psych-Out Round. While they appear to be taking a break, Klara talks down to Alana (because of course she does) about her domestic duties, playing house vs. finding a job.
Oswald agrees. He's happy to offer them a place to rest, but it's by no means a permanent solution. They'll need to find jobs, work, a proper home. (A nice jab from Oswald, by way of his work: "That's what you got out of my 435-page novel? The one I spent three years writing? That I want people to do nothing?") Like it or not, Marko and Alana have a family to think about, now. It's enough to send Alana storming off in an outrage...
Leaving Klara and Oswald to declare victory. "Nun Tuj Nun." Sneaky bastards.
Elsewhere, Sophie devours berries by the handful... at which point her long-lost mother arrives, from out of nowhere. What.
Klara's gone for a think, and Marko joins her. She tries to seduce him with promises of fellatio. He suggests she's using sex to avoid a painful subject, she disagrees. I'll be honest, this is one of my favorite scenes. Not because of the promises of sexual gratification, but the very fact that sex is still a part of their relationship. On top of the rampant hotness, Alana and Marko talk through their problem and agree to tackle it together, as a team. Leaving time besides for... things. *tries not to blush*
It's all fine and lovely, before that bastard Brian K Vaughan suckerpunches us with the finale. So, the ship's good to go. The Will gets a call from the service company that patched up his ship. Turns out both repairmen started tripping balls after Sophie's proffered snack. A parasite called Heroine alters the brain chemistry of anyone who consumes it, appearing in their mind as apparitions, talking them into sticking around (and joining the new ecosystem). It's insidious, it puts the last few chapters in a new light... and it goes a long way to justify why Sophie stabs The Will in the neck with her paring knife.
Damn, dude. I do't know what's creepier. The fact that a) the situation happened at all, or b) Fiona Staples did such a perfect job of illustrating a six-year-old stabbing a grown man in the throat.
At least the knife is still IN the wound, so it'll take that much longer for The Will to bleed to death. The apparition stands behind her— half her mom, half The Stalk, cheering her on. "Now stand on the bad man's neck until he stops moving."
That, dear readers, is what we call one hell of a cliffhanger. It's also an absolutely splendid twist... which may explain why this issue's my favorite.
Anyway. That was fucked up.
We're gaining on the series proper, delivering reviews in realtime. Just a few to go. So stick around. I plan to.
Casey Jones is an author and a voiceover artist. He has never stabbed anyone in the throat, nor is he looking to.