I’d hoped that this second volume would provide a good setup for more great art from Sean Murphy. As it is, you get the feeling that he gave the first volume his all and was then forced to soldier through this one with the stamina he had left. That’s not to say that there aren’t any great visuals, frenetic chase scenes, or imaginative set pieces in this second volume — the bit with Genghis, Osama, and Hitler racing go-karts in a virtual wonderland with Davey Trauma is a high point — but the spark that drove vol. 1 isn’t here. Still, what qualifies as “okay” art from Murphy is still more eye-catching than most other artist’s best efforts in my book.
This is particularly disappointing because Rick Remender’s story goes in the same direction that I was expecting it to. After the Tokyo Garden was destroyed as a result of his techno-relapse, Constable Led Dent is back in L.A. taking out all sorts of deviants and troublemakers for its leader, Mr. Flak. This is in advance of Mr. Flack’s plan to move anyone who can afford it to the newly renovated as-luxurious-as-it-is-garish Tokyo Garden and to dope up the masses so that they don’t realize it’s happening. Throwing a wrench into his plan is the sudden appearance of a sword-wielding, EMP-using vigilante who wants to bring everything down.
If you’ve read the first volume, then you get no points for guessing who this mysterious troublemaker is. While Remender does deserve credit for crafting effective messages about the perils of addiction and co-dependence through his protagonists, and coming up with some of the world’s more gonzo touches, his storytelling takes the predictable, conventional route whenever possible. He and Murphy work hard to sell their message about the perils of a wired world, but if you were expecting more nuance to the first volume’s “Technology=BAD” and “Nature=GOOD” stances then you’re not going to find it here. I was also thoroughly disappointed by the epilogue which lets us know that the conflict we saw here isn’t quite over yet and leaves the door open for a sequel.
Now, you might have heard that Murphy has signed an exclusive contract with DC that will have him drawing “Batman” comics for the next few years. While I hope that he gets back doing creator-owned work after that, I hope he does a new series rather than give us a new volume of this one.