Writer/Artist: Rei Hiroe
Translation: Dan Kanemitsu
Adaptation: Dan Kanemitsu
What They Say:
As the newest crewmember of the Black Lagoon, Rock is learning that life as a pirate is a lot more than just fun in the sun. After a salvage job on a sunken German U-Boat turns into a full-auto blowout with a gang of neo-Nazis, the crew of the Black Lagoon realizes they have more than a few issues with Revy's hair-trigger temper. But when the arrival of a pair of psychotic assassins in Roanapur nearly starts an all-out gang war, Rock is going to need all the friends he can get!
What We Say:
Volume 2 of Black Lagoon is filled by multi-part story arcs, starting with the four-chapter "Die Rückkehr des Adlers" arc. This time, Dutch's crew has been hired out to recover a painting from a sunken Nazi U-boat; in the meantime, a Neo-Nazi militia decides to claim the painting for themselves, leading to clashes above deck that gradually move to onboard the submarine. The story adds a surprising amount of character development in the middle when Revy and Rock share a conversation aboard the abandoned U-boat; and this is probably the first time I've ever criticized a manga for caring too much about its characters. It disrupts the flow of the story where it's sandwiched between action sequences, and it's a weird stylistic diversion to boot.
Even though "Calm Down Two Men" starts off with Revy and Rock going on-shore to negotiate a weapons shipment, it ends up basically revisiting last story's break in the action. Rock shows up Revy's bartering skills during the meeting, and so a good half of the arc has to do with the two getting into an argument. At least the first two parts of "Bloodsport Fairy Tail" leave Revy's mood swings aside, in no small part because the story shifts away from the Black Lagoon crew to a pair of child assassins. The tone is more disturbing than action-heavy, but I actually don't mind the change here; I'm not sure exactly what Hiroe's doing differently in this last story arc, but somehow the methodical pacing doesn't feel as out-of-place in these last two chapters.
After a well-executed first volume, Black Lagoon's second volume is kind of a let-down. It's hard to separate how much of this is an actual decrease in quality versus just the novelty of a new series wearing off, but there are definite places where Hiroe's technique just isn't as finely-honed as in Volume 1. Compare, for example, the elegantly choreographed shootout sequence at the end of Chapter 1 to the tepid action that closes out Part III of "Die Rückkehr", which seems to consist as much of big sound effects as actual gunplay. Or look at the arms-dealer subplot in "Calm Down", which is already recycling last volume's gun-toting nun gag.
But in spite of my nitpicking, it's definitely not all bad. As much as it drags in the middle, "Die Rückkehr" finishes off on a strong note both in terms of action and snappy writing, and "Bloodsport" takes a promising twist about halfway through. There's still enough interesting stuff here to please fans of the first volume, and so I'm still recommending that action fans give this one a shot (although not with the same glowing praise that I gave Volume 1).