Having had some time to cool off in the cooler, Bandit admits she blames herself, not Byron, for the Cultist massacre. Not that she’s changed her mind about Byron being an unacceptable risk, but the buck stops with her. This is a level of emotional honesty we won’t see Syr’Nj achieve on this topic. Admittedly, Syr’Nj has and will have a lot to distract her, whereas all Bandit’s had to do is stare at the walls, entertain visitors, and plot escape.

“She’s always right” is a solid line. (I may be using a variation of that one again soon.) As before, Bandit is torn. Panel 1 Bandit seems like she sorta kinda agrees with Syr’Nj’s assessment. Panel 2 Bandit is ready to stage a coup against this tyranny of the know-it-all.

E-Merl’s excuse is not the worst he could improvise. But I’d have some trouble believing Rachel was acrophobic after what happened to Yalaria. Or rather, I could believe Rachel had some fear of fixed heights, but I doubt she’d let that fear beat her. Bandit may not know what’s up with E-Merl exactly (“Mebbe he and she’re having another rough patch, like they did at Fightopia?”), but she’s pretty sure he’s lying.

The readers figured out what was up with E-Merl here, though. We’re not leading up to the scene of him getting the news about Rachel. We’ve blown right past it. E-Merl is far from okay, and he’ll get worse before he gets better. But the fact that he can look past his own searing pain to help a friend in need is arguably as heroic as anything else he’s done.

And that’s the other reason Flo and I wanted this scene. I gotta agree with Zalocin’s comment yesterday. While we were publishing the comic, Syr’Nj was my favorite character (and Flo’s too, though Bandit came second for her). But with the hindsight of these annotations, I feel like E-Merl’s claimed the top spot for me. His kind of heroism, buried as it is beneath his self-esteem issues and surface fumbling, is rarely recognized. It’s less praised but no less praiseworthy.

And this’ll be one of the last times he displays it, until the finale. His dark days are just beginning.