This is one of those pages that serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that ATC is designed to be a couple thousand pages. It’s plotted like it, and it reads like it – which means sometimes a character or characters appear or are mentioned briefly and seemingly without context. In some cases the context arrives later; in other cases the context is a few hundred pages back. This page is both of those cases.
The guys in panel five first “appeared” in June of 2004 and were last mentioned in July of 2013. Beef Knuckleback is technically a “grey,” and is ultimately a stand-in for the other two. Those guys would have had a bit more screen time in The Dualist but sanity cut it from ~600 pages to ~360 so they got to chill out offstage until this scene. The fact they have all-yellow eyes in whatever-Thad’s-doing and have normal eye-shaped eyes now is a visual oddity in that so far we’ve seen these guys exactly twice. There’s story context for contacts and there’s story context for Thad being a frigging loon so it could go either way at this point.
Aleks and Rayne both first appeared in November of 2004. Rayne was last mentioned on water -16- and Rayne and Aleks were mentioned in the closing pages of Earth, wherein Greymalkin foreshadows the hell out of what’s going on here – a box-and-scan of Thad’s South Side apartment, complete with a taped off area of interest.
So the who and the where were very extensively foreshadowed. So much so that not swinging by Pittsburgh to see what’s going on would feel like a possible plot hole or at the very least an omission. The what – the fact that Rayne and Aleks are wearing hazmat suits – may be relevant later on, or it may be visually symptomatic of Templar caution. Whichever it is, the suits are a whole lot of yellow. Quota amounts of yellow. The fact that telepathy is apparently FTL and Aleks has at least a vague idea of where Inga is and who she’s with is the sort of psychic contextualization that’ll save on exposition later.
Panel five is the first chronological painted background in a very long time. Though I cheated by mocking up the basic shapes behind the car before shoopin’ it. THAT’S PROBABLY ALSO SOME KIND OF FORESHADOWING. MAYBE.
Next week: the results!