This is it - the final complete arc before we catch up with the comic! This arc began on March 2014, and has been running until very recently.

Judging by the title, things with Pandora are going to come to a head at last.

Oh, and colour is back! I don’t really mind whether colour is present or absent - Dan Shive’s consistent standard of now line work and shading is now pretty impressive, but I find his colours unsatisfying for some unquantifiable reason? Maybe something to do with the hard black lines? Maybe the fact that characters’ palettes are not adjusted for local lighting conditions? That said it is nice to see more varied skin tones than are obvious in greyscale.

Anyway…

Squirrel Prophet

Tedd and his dad are arguing about whether the existence of magic must be obfuscated by a US-government-controlled conspiracy, or be permitted to be public knowledge. Tedd believes people would be better able to defend themselves, while Tedd’s dad sticks by the line that magic is too dangerous to not be a secret.

I guess my feeling is that the idea of the US government having exclusive access to a weapon/tool of control this powerful is fucking terrifying, much more so than potential individual acts of terror if the lid were blown on magic.

Following the same theme, Grace is being visited in her dreams by a wizard with a message from magic itself, which is basically an inhuman cosmic horror that doesn’t want to be available to everyone. And might totally change the rules to preven that outcome.

Squirrel Prophet part 2

A bunch of magic marks of the kind being issued by (presumably) Pandora; three that we’ve seen, five that are new (and do not show the person they’ve been drawn on). Interestingly, one of them is ⚥, so someone’s going to have gender powers?

Something is calling Grace’s attention to the magic marks - except she can’t see them through peoples’ clothes. But she can sense something is up.

There’s a magic tournament and Tedd’s going with short hair. I didn’t recognise them at first! I rather like this look - it’s pretty cute and femme. Tedd says they’re “owning their girly looks with short pink hair”… I’m actually feeling really hopeful about this direction with Tedd. Like I genuinely believe Tedd is going to assert a trans identity, not just as creative interpretation/wishful thinking but a thing that will happen! (Partly because I thought I’d heard that would happen eventually.)

New character time… Some random comic book store patron turns out to have the ability to perceive magic auras. He is colluding with someone else on the phone, looking for people with marks. He’s identified that Justin has the mark, and that Grace has an aura similar to Noah.

The guy, whose name is Luke, enters the Magic tournament to get a better look.

I get the impression Dan Shive has had some really bad experiences at Magic tournaments. I mean sure, he’s playing it up for exaggerated humour, but still.

We get a variant on Susan’s shoulder angels with Sarah! It’s cute as heck.

And Pandora shows up.

Now for a lot of playing cards. A Magic player might have more to say here, but all I’ll say is that it makes ‘a bunch of people play cards’ work surprisingly well.

Dan Shive makes a self-deprecating joke about his early tendency to draw female characters with exaggerated boobs. He also mentioned before that he’s making a conscious effort to make his characters’ body shapes a bit more varied. These are both good signs, I think?

Tedd is getting their first personal experience of harassment in gaming spaces. This is a complicated one - obviously how people read your gender determines strongly how much harassment you’re likely to receive, but there’s this misleading narrative that trans women only experience misogyny when we’re read as cis women and it’s more complicated than that? IDK, I’m probably reading too much into it.

Sarah is learning the game, and George is showing a positive side: he gives Sarah solid advice, helping her improve her play a lot. IDK - unsolicited advice can often be very condescending, though in this case, it wasn’t presented in such a bad way?

In Round 2, the plot helpfully contrives to give Luke a chance to investigate Justin and Grace. Meanwhile the B-plot about the two creepy guys who are trying to get with Tedd on the basis that they think Tedd is a cis girl continues. I choose to read Tedd’s preference to continue being read as a girl, and justified wariness about what happens when these guys’ assumptions are violated, as more Trans Signs.

Poor Luke has a lot of social anxiety, because the last comic book shop was a horribly homophobic environment. He relaxes over geeking out with Justin. I wonder if the comic’s trying to set him up with Justin? That would be nice.

(it occurred to me I don’t know any straight people who play Magic, but then I don’t really know very many straight people at all anymore, so it’s not all that surprising.)

Sam, aka pockets guy, tries to give Tedd some kind of vague advice on gender shit? I really don’t understand.

Holy shit yes it’s happening!!!!????

So TEdd was totally unaware that you could be trans and Grace offers ‘genderfluid’ and Tedd/Tess’s like “there’s a word for that?” and I think I want to cry?

yes ok I am crying so I guess I do

I want to give this fictional trans person such a big hug. I’ve had a trans headcanon for Tedd for so long and it’s actually canon and… fuck. Like I’d been told this is a thing that could happen and now it is and,

I don’t think there’s anything else I can say here tonight. I need to go to bed. And nothing else that can happen now can top finally having Tedd finally realise that they don’t have to be a man or just a man or anything, that there’s really another option…

there’s been a lot of bad things in this comic but this kind of makes the whole thing worth it? and to be honest the comic itself feels like (and I guess, basically is) a record of Dan Shive’s path to transness or something i know how cheesy that sound but you know

um gosh.