Dynamite has sent us a new writer's commentary by Crystal Frasier for Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones #4 with a cover by Marco Santucci and interiors by Tom Garcia.
Whew! Okay! Valeros is fine. I guess all of issue #2 was a false alarm or perhaps a concussion-induced hallucination. Although he does seem to have developed acute narrator boxes. Those are among the common side-effects of concussion-induced hallucinations, along with flashbacks, memory loss and unusual cravings. Ask your doctor if concussion-induced hallucination is right for you!
Why, this isn't Valeros at all! Shock and confusion! Instead it's a pensive individual named Zeladar, who has clearly never seen an orc before. Fun fact for those of you who aren't familiar with the canon of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game setting, but the ancient empire of Thassilon (Zeladar's old home) fell during the cataclysm of Earthfall, when an asteroid struck the planet and plunged the world into centuries of darkness. It wasn't until the whole world went dark that the first orcs emerged from vast caverns underground to explore and conquer the surface, and hence it wouldn't be until at least nine months later than the first half-orcs were born. Zeladar has also never seen a dwarf, as they didn't arrive until after the orcs, but Harsk doesn't get that same dramatic reaction, because once you've spent twenty minutes in Valeros's head, not a lot phases you any more.
Back in the Boneyard courts, and Valeros is still trying to explain a bureaucratic SNAFU. We get a little glimpse of Acquisto's butt, which I feel is a mistake, because I think the audience, like me, is here for Kyron's butt. Rock. Solid.
This page is a little character rundown, which are always fun to write and super-helpful if someone didn't pick up the previous issue or doesn't remember the names of several new characters introduced a month ago. Plus I got to use the word nincompoop, and I feel like that would make my grandfather proud.
And now we get to the reason why everyone reads fantasy adventure comics: Courtroom drama!
More seriously, though: I love dialogue. I love characterization and emotion and dragging out different characters' needs and perspectives and making them fight. Writing a courtroom drama, for me, is probably as cool as writing a battle scene for a historic tactics wonk. I need to figure out how to get every Pathfinder character into a courtroom over the next few story arcs. Maybe Merisiel's neighbor will sue her in small claims court!
And as much fun as dialogue is, I know not everyone is here for it, so we added a shoving match in the background while Valeros and Wini talk about their feelings. Enjoy the cosmic struggle between good and evil reduced to a slap-fight!
Wini's being all heartfelt and introspective, though! And Valeros is crying! PATHOS! Sweet, juicy pathos! Like mother's milk!
You can tell I'm not actually a lawyer, because I'm 90% sure judges aren't allowed to bodily toss prosecutors and defense attorneys in mortal courtrooms. Also, I can now finally reveal that Valeros has spent this entire issue (and the previous one) COMPLETELY NAKED!
So we finally have a plan. And never underestimate the power of the unspoken plan! Wini is a helper, and I love that Valeros's idea of "stalling for time" defaults to flirting. You can tell a lot about a character by how he solves problems outside his area of expertise, and Valeros is a man who asks others for help and lays on the charm.
Yes! Curb-stomp that cockroach Valer – er, uh — Zeladar! Sorry, new names can be challenging, but it's important to respect them.
And now we get to more emotional development and start to find out why Merisiel has some issues with Imrijka joining the team. Seoni is busting out the swears, so you know she's serious. But rogues are very good at deflecting…
So yeah, Merisiel is a forlorn elf, meaning she was raised among humans instead of elves and has spent her entire life watching everyone around her grow old and die faster than she does. Elves like a good 600 or 700 years, so that's enough time to watch all your friends die 10 times over, and that's hard to process when you fall in love with one of those short-lived, silly humans.
Sometimes all you really need is a good cry to just work all those emotions through your system. But unfortunately a monster-filled dungeon is a really bad place to have a cry.
So another hint of weirdness from Valeros: He knows about the caulborn, which the Pathfinders haven't met yet.
And worth noting here how well Tom Garcia fits the whole team into shots, because cramming four heroes and a few opponents into one comic panel can be challenging under the best circumstances. Let's have a hand for Tom!
Just to reiterate: Valeros's idea of "stalling for time" defaults to flirting, and IT WORKS, dammit!
Longtime fans of the Pathfinder comic will remember Tanin from Runescars, a Grey Maiden from the city of Korvosa, who died helping the Pathfinders stop the sorcerer Lazku from drowning Varisia in blood. This, much to my shame, is one of the areas where losing two pages of story per book (I originally outlined thinking I had 22 pages to work with each instead of 20) really hurts the continuity in ways no one but me would think about. Tanin is a member of the Grey Maidens, a woman-only order of knights assembled by Korvosa's queen, but one condition of membership is to disfigure your face with scars (because of complicated in-world plot reasons). Tanin's dead form doesn't have those scars for the same reason Valeros isn't naked: because that's not how she sees herself. With just two more pages I could've gone off into the weeds about that, and while I think not doing that makes for a tighter story, it still makes me a little sad.
Dammit, Acquisto! This was an unspoken plan! Those always work!
So yeah, the system's rigged and everyone knows it. Time for more shenanigans with the filthy cup! And damn, Tom did a great job illustrating Valeros in panel 4, looking all sneaky like he sees Merisiel being.
Any time you need to cut away to a new seen, blast a hole through a wall. I learned that from early Claremont X-Force. Always study the masters, kids!
Zeladar can cast the incendiary cloud spell, something Valeros (at least thus far in life), never could. So yeah, kind of another clue there that Val's been replaced.
Soooooo, we're gonna wrap up this issue with a sort of "good news/bad news" scenario. Valeros is back from the dead! Hurray! But … probably not for very long.