In this unusually satisfying CrossGen title, Prince Ethan of the Heron Dynasty and his lover, Ashleigh, are perplexed by the challenge of defending the independent state they've founded as a haven for former slaves. They seek help in the kingdom of Tigris, guided by their supposed friend, Nadia. They discover too late that she isn't who they think she is, and they then must escape to warn Tigris's intended conquests. Meanwhile, Ashleigh's evil brother Bron reappears, reclaims the throne of the Raven Dynasty, and begins plotting with Ethan's strangely altered father, King Dane. The setting's mixture of medieval and high-tech elements doesn't make much sense, but it works emotionally. Hillsman's inking of pencils by Cheung (and Jim Fern) gives the characters a sharply chiseled look, and each episode includes several dazzling full- or double-page images. Impressive as the big set-pieces are, though, the characters' intimate interaction is even better, thanks to Marz's scripts. Ethan and Ashleigh are convincing both as deadly warriors and as shy sweethearts. One especially stunning scene concerns a tense nighttime encounter, during which the supposedly dead Bron appears at the Raven castle and confronts his treacherous younger brother, Kort. Kort would kill his brother to keep the throne if he dared. But Bron, without any direct threats, masters the situation utterly; while talking casually, he sees and plays with a partly peeled apple, as readers see the tip of the knife's blade peeking out of Kort's sleeve. This is understated dramatic graphic storytelling at its best.