Apparently this series isn’t going to progress in a straight line, chronologically speaking. Vol. 3 takes us back to the time period of the first volume, and while I’m kinda disappointed that we’re not going to follow up with what Alita is up to in the present, we get some good backstory development here. Not in regards to Alita’s younger self, Yoko, but to her former friend/current nemesis Erica. We learn about her extremely unhappy childhood and how she dealt with her no-good parents and then see her separated from Yoko who winds up being reunited with her mother. While it seems like a happy development, it’s clear that there’s more going on there than it seems. From there, Erica winds up becoming first a captive of, then the apprentice of the infamous Baron Muster. A self-professed villain in a dapper tuxedo, he’s out for revenge against those who gave him a horrific disease that has left the man with a little over a year to live. It’s in Erica, however, that he senses a kindred wicked spirit that he can nurture with the appropriate training.
Erica’s history here was quite illuminating and it becomes a lot easier to see how she turned out like she did in the present. If mangaka Yukito Kishiro is going to keep jumping back and forth between time periods with every other volume, then character developments that inform both eras are going to be key to holding my interest here. Also, introducing a character like Baron Muster goes a long way towards making the parts of the story set in the past a lot more interesting than they were in the first volume. Kishiro has a long history of creating interesting madmen -- from Desty Nova, to Zapan, to Mbadi -- who also have their sympathetic sides as well. Muster is no exception to this as he’s self-aware enough to see that his actions set him as the villain in this story, yet realizes that there’s no reason the wicked shouldn’t be happy as well. It’s this philosophy that wins Erica over and sets her down what looks to be a dark but compelling path. I may know where it ends, but I want to see what else Erica encounters along the way.