Warning up front: We’ll be discussing some pretty major spoilers.

The previous issue of the climactic miniseries Curtain Call teased a massive fight between Toulon’s puppets and Anapa’s. This issue wastes no time throwing us right into the middle of that battle. And yet, not a single moment of character interaction is wasted. Nothing feels rushed, everything feels natural. Maybe the most impressive thing, though, is just how much of this issue is told without dialogue.

Because Shawn Gabborin has taken the extra steps to provide layered characterization for the main puppets, we don’t need to get those glimpses into their human souls to know what they’re thinking. Ultimately, though, it’s Daniel J. Logan’s art that really takes the driver’s seat here. He’s telling the story so well visually that the dialogue only comes in when it’s absolutely needed.

Puppet MasterWe see the puppets primarily through action sequences in this issue. The glances they toss between each other are extremely similar to how they interact in the films, but this creative team has actually given those interactions weight. That, I think, will always be the lasting legacy of this comic series even after it comes to a close.

Curtain Call #2 doesn’t feel as rushed or crammed as the first issue because all of the exposition is out of the way. Everyone is up to speed at this point. Now we’re right in the middle of the final battle. The end is near and the stakes are clear. Anapa has been an imposing threat throughout this entire run, but his end goal has never been entirely clear. Now we get a glimpse of his true power, why it was so important to keep him away from Anthony. Poor Anthony’s destiny has tragically turned out to be that he is meant to be the vessel through which Anapa can be born, restored to full strength and let loose upon the earth.

We see glimpses of toys around the globe, coming to life and wreaking havoc. A few curious cameos are tossed in there as well, from the Peterstown residents of the previous, unfinished arc “Retro Now,” to a clever appearance by the Demonic Toys. For a series in which the characters are so small, the stakes have truly never been higher.

But the puppets have gone to war before, and they’ve won every time. At the end of the day, there’s only one way to show that this battle is dangerous, that no one is safe, and that we should not just go in expecting everyone to make it out alive. To truly showcase the threat that Anapa has always been promised to be, someone has to die.

Puppet Master Curtain CallCurtain Call #2 gives us the death of a character that has been a part of the franchise from the very beginning. Thanks to arcs like “Rebirth” and the psychic theatre that has become a part of the comic’s development, we’ve come to know him as Hans as much as we’ve always known him as Jester.

His death will surely have weight moving into the finale. It does not appear to simply be done for the sake of shock value. And he definitely wasn’t just a puppet chosen out of a hat to be “the one who dies.” If a character in this ensemble is going to die and that death is meant to mean something, then it simply has to be Jester. He’s the heart of the group. He’s the jokester, the prankster, often the brains of the outfit, but he’s also the weakest. Several features in the series have shown the puppets rallying to come to their friend’s aid.

The climax of the original film even centers around the puppets turning heel against Neil Gallagher after he smashes Jester into a wall. Jester is the only one out of this group to have retained some semblance of his innocence. He’s attacked, but never killed anyone on his own and none of the other puppets can say the same. His puppet body isn’t equipped with any kind of aggressive measures, no hooks or knives or flamethrowers, so it has always fallen on the others to protect him.

And now, ultimately, they’ve failed.

No other death would have this much weight or would affect the group this deeply outside of Andre himself. It will clearly have an effect on the finale and I cannot wait to see how that loss is dealt with. Next month, three years of Puppet Master comics officially come to a close, yet I’m excited as I’ve ever been.

WICKED RATING: 8/10