This chapter will be ramping up to threat-to-all-life levels in arguably record time, but every new setting needs a few low-stakes shenanigans to get us invested. Here, we complete a circle that began when we first met Penk, who seemed barely older than the two spying kids here and worshipped the seemingly unapproachable Harky. He sees the kids in frame 3, and he may not have heard their conversation, but he knows they’re fans and can’t help but smile. From the script: “To them, Penk is like the most famous rock star you can imagine who is also real-life Batman.”

Fun little detail: Magda elbows Penk in the flank in panel 4. It’d be in the ribs if not for their height disparity. We were not sure whether romance would bloom between these two, but we at least wanted Gring to seem like she could be onto something. Magda is comfortable around Penk, and that easy physicality is sometimes a sign of love aborning.

The missing Champions exposited here would not have been terribly useful against the monster that the team’s heavyweights will shortly face. I don’t think anything but his absence could stop Auraugu from trying to wrestle the all-dissolving beast, so his partying in another settlement basically saves his life here. Goblaurence could rig an explosion or two but wouldn’t have much to do before or after. And Rana’s reaction to the idea of collaborating with Gastonian forces would be redundant with Hammerhead’s.