Screwups, Death, and Jokes
Yep. Jensen is in fact a screwup. This is the coward who was whining about it being safer just to open fire and take the guy apart. He was warned about this little guy's capabilities specifically, and he still lowered his fletcher and gave Ishida an opening. Sucks to be him. The first time I drew this I had him die too, but then I decided that a violent death which doesn't advance the plot is against my own personal obscenity code, so I redrew panel 15.
For those following along at home, the weapon Sergeant Tang is firing in panels 16, 17, and 18 is an "autofletcher." It uses an air pump driven by a hydrogen-burning turbine to pressurize the breech. This pressure, in turn, propels explosive flechettes 2mm wide and 16mm long at a rate of about 12000 per second.
Because the muzzle velocity is relatively low (under 200m/s) and the flechettes themselves very light and fragile, an autofletcher's effective range is limited to about 20 meters, and it will not penetrate metal, bone, or even most kinds of hard plastics.
But the flechettes will penetrate clothing, skin and flesh, and given the tiny explosive charges and the withering rate of fire, the effect against unarmored people is devastating.
And yes, this identifies Doctor Malcolm Ishida as a minor character who had to die so that the plot could move forward. He got exactly one line. He said, "I hate mondays" on the previous page.
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Here's how Rich Burlew handled it in his new comic, Erfworld. This is another character, that, like Doctor Ishida, has to die so that the story can move forward. He got two lines. And like Doctor Ishida, one of them was for the sake of comedy. Go ahead and read; I'll be here when you get back.
This may be a universal truth in comics, even dramatic comics. It's really hard to have someone die without making a joke. The joke may be weak. It may be separated from the actual death by several panels. It may come after the death. But we have to make a joke. We're human beings, and if we start taking death too seriously, we might just turn into Freiderich Neitzsche.
I dunno, what is there to say about death that hasn't already been said? It's the great curtain at the end of the act. It's when they throw dirt over you and you become food for worms. You just can't face something that absolute and, frankly, terrifying, without making a joke.
It's terribly unfortunate when people take some of these jokes too seriously. That's how belief in an afterlife gets started, and oddly enough, more people have killed each other over beliefs about an afterlife than over food. That's another thing about us that's so absolute and terrifying that we can't face it directly and we have to make a joke about it.
I better shut up now, before all these jokes get too depressing.