Sometimes a page will just fall apart under the gaze of analysis until I can hardly bear to keep looking at it. This one does the opposite: the more I think about it, the further up on my list of favorites it goes. There’s just so much here that works.

Start with Gravedust and Magda. Neither of them were remotely ready for this meeting, but it pains him more, and he wilts under her question (which answers it without answering it). Even better is Penk, who leads with a badass threat that he might’ve workshopped beforehand, but then immediately starts convincing himself of what he needs to do, reaching into his own past as a musician to do so. Protecting Rebel lives will always come before “all enemies burn” in his heart, and he’s too much of a tactical thinker not to see what’ll happen if he doesn’t form a truce. And then we close on that great little smile as his course becomes clear.

But everyone else gets a chance to shine, too… headachy Frigg (love John’s cartoony mini-Beasts circling her), surly Sundar, cool-headed WAV, Rachel who moves to stand with Gravedust in his mourning, and Fr’Nj, who can see where Penk’s train of thought is going and all but throws herself in front of Sundar before he can derail it.

Bonus points for the term “sea sharks,” which is only natural for a world where land sharks are established enough to be as much the default as their swimming cousins. Let’s just hope there aren’t any air sharks out there.