Hiroe's afterword promises more action in the next volume. I hope he's telling the truth.
Writer/Artist: Rei Hiroe
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Adaptation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
The shockwaves from the assassination of Garcia Lovelace's father in Venezuela hit Roanapur full force. The deadly maid and ex-terrorist Roberta begins her quest for vengeance and she's not going to quit even if the trail takes her deep into a web of intrigue involving the U.S. military. The city's criminal gangs realize the danger of too much U.S. government attention, and the crew of the Black Lagoon is drawn into the search for the renegade killer maid from Hell. But Roberta's dance of death won't be over until everyone has paid the price in blood.
The downside of Black Lagoon going into long-form story arcs is that the accompanying gaps in the action can sometimes bring out Hiroe's deficiencies as a storyteller. Sadly, "El Baile de La Muerte" -- a twelve-parter and counting as of Volume 7 -- is no exception to this rule.
Readers who're into the series's typical over-the-top action will be disappointed to hear that it's almost completely absent in the nine chapters collected in this volume. What's basically the only action sequence of any consequence comes at the very beginning, continuing the barfight that broke out at the close of last volume. Even here, the action is less visceral than what the series normally delivers: the artwork tends to alternate between big explosions and reaction shots, none of which add any excitement to what ought to be a fairly cataclysmic shootout. (This sequence might be more evidence of just how pivotal Revy is to the series's best action sequences -- she's basically a passive observer this time, spending most of the first couple of chapters cracking up at a joke that the readers don't seem to be in on.)
The remainder of the book, then, is filled with conversations ... lots of conversations. This all starts off okay, beginning with Garcia and Fabiola explaining what they want from the Black Lagoon crew: they suspect that Roberta's gone AWOL to seek revenge on the people who killed her master, and Garcia wants her to stop before she gets killed. From this point on, the exposition gets pretty awful -- Eda and Revy randomly start chatting about the job during a poker game; Roberta rattles off a target's list of credentials, when just a name would have made more sense; a CIA agent outs herself and her partner by talking about "we, the CIA" in a private conversation; you get the idea. It's made even more frustrating by the fact that there isn't much context at first to understand what these tidbits of information actually mean; the first hints of a coherent explanation comes in the form of a massive infodump (laced with ethnic slurs) during a meeting of mob bosses around the book's closing act. The cutting back-and-forth and keeping the reader in the dark is designed to make things edgier, I guess, but in this case I'd rather that Hiroe gone for a slightly more straightforward bent in place of nonstop empty conversation.
Coming after a couple of the series's best volumes, this latest installment is underwhelming, to put it mildly. If it were its own standalone storyline, I'd even be tempted to recommend that people skip it -- unfortunately, since almost everything here is information feeding into a larger story arc, readers don't really have the luxury to selectively skip over this one volume. I guess that means it's recommended, but more out of necessity than merit.