Rock and Revy are back, rejoice!
Story/Art: Rei Hiroe
Translation/Adaptation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
Benny’s tech-savvy girlfriend Jane has recruited Feng Yifei, a Chinese spy, to help her hack into a massive German defense company. But Jane’s real motive is to blackmail the Chinese government by exposing their operations and hang Feng out to dry as a scapegoat. The People’s Liberation Army isn’t going to let this slide, and it’s not long before they hire local mercenaries to wipe out Feng and anyone that gets in the way, including the crew of the Black Lagoon!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Oh, Black Lagoon, it’s been too long. It’s been years between volumes but the clean break at the end of the Blood Trail story arc makes it easy to jump back in. Rock stands at a precipice. After the events of the last major story arc he is well on his way to eventually being a major player. Rock has great potential, either for good or evil, and he struggles with which side of the fence he’ll end up on.
Enough about Rock though, Benny’s girlfriend Jane is in town for business and pleasure. The pleasure would be sexy times with Benny, the business is far more interesting. She sets up a recruitment job for a Chinese hacker named Feng Yifei, but it’s actually a set up for her to take a fall. This is where we’re reminded that this story is set in the 1990’s, and that cyber-warfare is a new and emerging market for governments. Feng Yifei is a government sponsored hacker, part of China’s new soldiers for the future. Incredibly timely for all of the state sponsored hacking stories that hit the news daily now.
To say Jane slam dunks her is putting it mildly.
Feng is left high and dry, with her commanding officer given an ultimatum to make the traitor disappear. Suddenly she’s on the run, abandoned by her boss and a target for assassination by her government. Feng does the only thing she can do, she panics and starts running, and tracks down the people she feels are responsible for putting her in this mess hoping they can get her out of it.
Rock and Revy collide with her right about the same time the hitmen assigned to get rid of her do. We get some of that action which makes Black Lagoon such a fun read as Rock makes a last minute decision to bring Feng along rather than ditch her. Revy wants to know if Rock is going to pick a side and help her, and when Rock tries to wash his hands of the situation Revy’s disappointment is obvious. It’s funny that of all the Lagoon members she’s usually the one telling Rock to keep his nose out of it.
Not that this fun return to Black Lagoon isn’t without some problems. The side plot with the Italian mobster Ronnie isn’t immediately connected to any on going event besides an unfortunate room rental, and all of his plotting distracts from the story with Feng. The opening chapters jump back and forth from scene to scene with the barest hint of before and after, and the out-of-order storytelling is unnecessarily confusing. (Way too many writers in general seem to be in love with disordered narrative.)
Another thing which is fine in small doses but starts to drag is the philosophical discussion Rock eventually has with Feng. It’s not necessary to hammer home just how similar Feng’s position is to Rock’s when he first joined Lagoon Company, it’s obvious the moment Feng gets he final phone call from her boss. She plays armchair therapist to Rock’s internal debate of to help or not, and about what ultimately drives him. It’s a weird conversation.
The volume ends right when the story starts heating up. Rock works his magic to come up with an out for Feng while Revy works some angles to keep her safe while they do. The author thanks the readers, and apologizes for the delay in an afterword… a delay he makes fun of in the extra comic which shows off his drawing range while turning the cast in to different genres. He also points out that he switched to digital artwork halfway through the volume, but my discerning eye couldn’t pick out the switch. So we’re left hanging once again waiting for an eventual volume 11. Hopefully it won’t take five years like last time.
Black Lagoon returns with a little bit of everything that makes it great. There’s gunplay, espionage, mobsters, pizza and booze, assassins, people in over their heads, and Revy being Revy. It’s great watching the Lagoon crew kicking back and shooting the shit while all hell breaks loose just pages later. The art is as crisp as ever and despite the long hiatus it feels like nothing has changed, like not a beat has been dropped. The downside is I have no idea when the next volume is going to release and we’re left hanging mid storyline when we hit the final page!
Content Grade: B +
Art Grade: A –
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 21st, 2015