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Blaise writes...



And now we meet the Director. Sort of. We never get a clear look at his face, or learn his real name. In a way this makes him the opposite of another surprise character, Monsieur Le Maire, who appears to be the Director's superior! We know his name (or alias at least), but we never see him, or learn exactly what organization they belong to. Just what we need, another "super-secret organization." At least this one seems to be trying not to fall into the "ends justify the means" trap.
I just noticed on my second read through that Falstaff stuffs his leg of meat into his tankard while talking. I guess if you enjoy beer soaked meat....

We get introduced to Falstaff's motley crew, and Dingo introduces his group (poor Fang's out cold for his intro), and we move to dinner. I love the look on Fang's face after Hunter says they "won't be breaking any bread" ("Uh...we won't?" with a mouthful of food). Interestingly, the Matrix seems to be sampling the silverware. I also enjoy Hunter's reaction to Dingo's defense of Falstaff as having raised him ("That's a recommendation?").
Matrix seems to confound Falstaff from the get-go. I particularly like the look he gives Matrix when it makes a statement in regards to its attempt to take over the world "with geometry."

Of course, we come to the part we saw in the trailer where Falstaff makes the claim that the Illuminati are the good guys, and brings in character witnesses for that. Namely, Fiona Canmore and Thailog (love Yama's initial call for someone to fix the color after thinking it was Goliath).
Both offer some wonderful character/plot moments. For Fiona, there's the revelation that the "family" has been looking for Robyn (just how big is the Canmore family anyway?), and that "the Hunt" is just a part of something larger (of which we are not told right now). Thailog describes himself as Goliath's "rookery son" (I felt I had to laugh at the audacity of that lie), and then says Fang will vouch for him. Fang's next line ("Sure. Thailog's my kinda gargoyle") floored me. Saying that EXACT phrase to Yama pretty much guaranteed that Yama would want nothing to do with the Illuminati. Actually, Fang brings a lot of surprises in this issue, but I'll deal with the rest later.
That is a LOT of treasure. I just had to say that.
I find it hilarious that everyone has to hop for the Matrix to form a "privacy bubble." It's a fun image--as is all of them crowded together inside. Meanwhile Falstaff is stymied in his attempts to eavesdrop on their conversation. The Matrix has done nothing to endear itself to him.

The inter-cutting of the Squad's "signing up" with the Illuminati and their earlier private conference in the bubble do an effective job of keeping the reader guessing. At first I was a bit confused, but on my second read through I finally figured out what was going on. They make the decision that the Illuminati cannot be trusted, but Dingo doesn't want to just nuke the place. In addition to wanting to spare the lives of his foes, he also wants to save the treasure and all the art and history contained therein (and proving himself closer to "hero" than "anti-hero" in the process), so they play along. Their attempt at infiltration goes south, however. Maybe it was Falstaff's halfhearted acceptance of Hunter's claim that she works for Interpol, or the fact that the Thieves were already surrounding them, but something convinces Fang that Falstaff is onto them, and he starts blasting (taking out Doll first, probably for payback).

There's a lot of stuff with this fight I like:
-how quickly and easily the Matrix neutralizes Mistress Quick.
-Dingo's unhappy look at having to face off against his old mentor.
-Yama's rather unique method of defeating Points (yet another showcase of something that would NEVER have made it on television). Interestingly, I think there are actually stories from Japan of swordsmen defeating opponents with such tactics.
-Hunter's graceful handling of Bardolph.
-And Pistol's surprise entrance with a BFG.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Matrix really could blow up the island (I find that more believable than it lying about such a thing--doesn't seem programmed for that yet). The fact that the island is a freakin' submarine caught me by surprise, but not as much as Falstaff's casual dismissal of them all drowning. After all that he'd seen/heard about the Matrix, did he really think something like this would kill them? And he didn't seem too upset about the capture of Mistress Quick (who has a whole "screaming statue" thing going on). Speaking of which, I wonder if she's at all conscious throughout this sequence.

Matrix makes a nice raft. I really enjoy the conversation here at the end, especially Yama's little speech. Even if he doesn't feel he has redeemed himself yet, he certainly seems more at peace than he was in "The Lost." I also enjoy everyone's surprise at Yama's statement that Fang was actually "more right than wrong." Actually, Fang is surprising in several ways, not the least of which is how helpful he is to the squad. He subtly indicates that Thailog (and by extension, the Illuminati) is untrustworthy, doesn't give Falstaff time to trap them, and sounds almost philosophical about losing the mission but surviving. The serious look on his face while Yama gives his speech caught me off guard, too. I never would have pegged Fang as interested in redemption before. I wonder if Tasha's suicide had something to do with it.
So Yama turns to stone in mid-sentence before he can say how they'll know they are redeemed, much to Fang's (rather humorous) consternation. I love how Yama's Squad uniform does not turn to stone with him. I'm also rather surprised at the smile Hunter and Dingo share. It's nice to see them not sniping at each other for once.

Nothing left to say really, except about that sketch on the inside of the back cover. I don't remember Hunter kissing Dingo like that in these comics! Here's hoping we see something like that in a comic in the near future.

Greg responds...

As I often say, "Give me enough issues..."

Response recorded on February 11, 2010