This second volume shows that, much like the first, when you have this much style you don’t need to have that much substance (or coherence, for that matter). The main characters are still the members of the secret organization “Libra,” and they’re still trying to maintain the peace between the many different creatures and factions that inhabit the transmogrified version of New York known as “Jerusalem’s Lot.” After the previous volume focused on mostly normal new recruit Leonard and the hot-headed and hot-blooded (*rimshot*) enforcer Zap, we get to see more of the other members of this organization in action. So we get to see things like Klaus’ 99-hour “prosfair” deathmatch, and my vote for the sensational character find of 2012: Lucky Abrahms. He’s the world’s leading expert on vampires, and has suffered a multitude of curses as a result of his work. The “lucky” bit comes from the fact that while he is effectively immune to them, they’re still in effect and wreaking havoc on anyone in their vicinity.
Abrahms’ situation also lends himself to mangaka Yasuhiro Nightow’s style, as he can be standing on a street in one panel, and then witnessing a truck get pulverized by some flying otherworldly monstrosity the next. The man’s art can enliven just about any kind of scene and nowhere is that more apparent than in the “prosfair” match between Klaus and the demonic Don Arelelle. This “game” is said to be a hybrid of shogi and chess, but strategy is not the point of the match at all as it turns out to be a master class in escalating tension and excitement through style alone. Nightow uses the first match between the Don and a human player to establish the stakes, and the demon as a formidable opponent. So, when Klaus begins his match the possibility that he may be outmatched exists, and then we’re treated to a rapid-fire assault of trapezoidal panels filled to the brim with detail and dialogue that present a rush that’s hard not to get caught up in.
As much as I enjoyed that sequence, it was barely related to the main plot of the team trying to get a lead on a new drug that hit the streets. It results in a chapter that reads pretty disjointedly, as if Nightow suddenly had a better idea halfway through. The second story is set up a bit better, courtesy of the short chapter between the first and second, but there’s ultimately little to it beyond some very well-executed fight scenes. More than anything else, “Blood Blockade Battlefront” feels like it exists for Nightow to draw whatever the hell he wants, freed from the constraints of realism, and tell whatever stories too, in order to facilitate the drawing and likely freed from editorial input beyond spell and grammar-checking. It’s unlikely that this will replace “Trigun” as his definitive work, but the style, technique, and humor on display here make it an entertaining read if you’ve got the right mindset for it.