Hmm, Aata goes ahead of his subordinates, and moves as close to potential danger (i.e. Loup) as is reasonable given his abilities. So call him what you want, but in this instance at least, the man does show some leadership qualities, and frankly quite some balls as well.
In the last panel in particular, not only does Loup look highly concentrated but also like he is making an extreme effort - as if he can barely hold things together.
Thinking on it, perhaps that's why the Shadow Men are along in the first place, and what "readings" they're after: They're concerned that if Loup cannot hold the Forest together, the Court will start to collapse too, especially with no divide between them anymore.
Aata seems to be making a signal to his subordinates behind.
He and the guy next to him both. It looks kinda like "hold there" to me.
I don't think Loup would have to see that to guess the Shadow Men will be up to something, nor will he be that surprised when Aata gives the "go" signal, but it's nice for the audience to see it so we can have the anticipation of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I imagine, a part of Loup believes Coyote, when it comes to Loup dying. He may be focusing on everything, in a desperate attempt to see the threat beforehand. Though my money is still on, just trying to hold it all together. If Annie has to go into the Ether, I wonder what state she'll find Loup in?
I can't decide whether to interpret Aata and Shell's gestures as signaling the other Shadow Men to stop, or trying to awkwardly wave hello to Loup. The first one is, ok, probably the only one that makes actual sense, but the second one is funnier.
I think we keep collectively forgetting this isn't the kind of comic where ancient undead elves give powerful magic boons to the hero, it's a comic where a girl loses her hair clip and a zombie spends 50+ chapters trying to get it back to her.
I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the gesture Aata and Shell make. The normal "Stop" sign had the fist clenched. The gesture with the palm open like that is for all intents and purposes identical to the less formal version of the nazi (or "Roman", as some euphemistically call it) salute, when you were either adressing people lower in the hierrchy, or your other hand was unavailable for reasons such as walking with a woman.
The normal "Stop" sign had the fist clenched. The gesture with the palm open like that is for all intents and purposes identical to the less formal version of the nazi (or "Roman", as some euphemistically call it) salute