Just a few pages after that devastating loss of his hat (HAT THEFT IS NOT A JOKE, BANDIT :-P), E-Merl is back to being his “high-functioning” self. It will take some time for his loss to fully impact his performance. And as in the prior scene, his dynamic is shifting with a onetime mentor who is now leaving that role but giving him some parting advice as they go.

The advice on this page, though, will not help E-Merl as much as Gravedust thinks it will. GD is not anticipating how much the roster and dynamics of the Peacemakers is shifting. Possibly E-Merl could’ve made it through his dark days in the next few chapters a bit more gracefully if he’d had old friends like Scipio and Bandit at his side, but they’re already in the wind. Even Fr’Nj, with her supportive personality, could’ve helped E-Merl cope, but she’s gone too. If there’s a moral to this chapter, it’s that everyone has their own shit going on that they have to deal with, and group identity is often second to that.

The last couple of frames are a struggle for E-Merl. His deep grief would like to lash out at Gravedust, who almost seems to be inviting him to do so. And yet Gravedust is his friend and mentor, and E-Merl knows Gravedust isn’t really to blame. So his better nature prevents an outburst, but his grief is just too strong for him to say something like, “You didn’t fail anyone, man, the fucking Cultists did. Don’t beat yourself up.”