The wait for this volume was still worth it. Granted, most of this volume doesn’t focus on mountain climbing and almost seems to go out of its way to focus on the series’ weaknesses. I’ve said before that writer Yumemakura Baku has a tendency to over-write many scenes, leaving NO DOUBT AT ALL as to what Fukumachi, now back in Nepal on the trail of Habu and the camera he found, is thinking at any given moment. This is particularly annoying since he has an artist in Jiro Taniguchi who is very good at conveying a lot of this information visually without the need to clobber the reader over the head with exposition. His approach does have its place, though, as the opening chapter details the history behind Mallory and Irvine’s ill-fated approach to Everest that set this story in motion. The rest of the time, it leaves you feeling like he could’ve used an editor with a stronger hand, like when he takes several pages to tell us the history of the Gurkas. I’ll admit that it’s an interesting bit of history, but it stops the story cold to flesh out one part of a supporting character in this volume.
However, whenever the volume focuses on mountain climbing, as in the first chapter, during Habu’s rescue attempt, and in the build-up to the next volume, it’s as compelling as the series has ever been. The kidnapping subplot, which takes up most of the middle here, is also well-handled. There’s a nice slow burn to the tension as Fukumachi and Habu come to grips with the situation and take the necessary steps to resolve it. The whole sequence actually feels pretty believable within the context of the story. Granted, the whole thing does feel like the writer’s way of killing time, and that’s why this volume isn’t quite as good as the previous two. However, with all this out of the way, it looks like the next volume will be playing to the title’s strengths as we get more of Habu’s backstory and see the start of his attack on Everest. We probably won’t get to see this until early 2014 at the earliest, but I’m sure the wait will be worth it again.