What does the ongoing battle for the Wolf’s Maw hold for us in this volume? Why nothing more than the high point of the series so far. It hasn’t been the easiest ride, sticking with this title, but I can now say that my patience has been rewarded with all of the enthralling battles contained within this volume.
When we left off, Bailiff Wolfram’s cool had finally cracked as the rebels had finally breached the outer walls of Wolfsmund. Not only do they have a way in, these fighting peasants have the numbers needed to overwhelm the enemy by any means necessary. Even if it means building a ramp made of their smoldering corpses out of a pit, charging through the traps in the keep’s narrow walls, or fighting the murderous lead knight head on the rebels are determined to win this battle no matter the cost.
That’s the key to this volume’s success. Where previous ones had heaped misery upon misery for the members of the rebellion, we actually start seeing some payoff to their struggles here. In fact, mangaka Mitsuhisa Kuji gets a good rhythm of “suffering/success” going here as the trials of the peasant army eventually lead to the bad guys getting what they deserve in just about every scenario. We also get to see their successes in gory detail as well. It’s hard not to see the moment they hoist the severed head of a hated foe in the air as an immensely satisfying -- and very metal -- triumph over their adversaries! However, it also serves as another reminder of the fact that this series isn’t one for the faint of heart or the squeamish.
There are also plenty of memorable moments for the cast themselves. In case you weren’t sure that Walter Tell was meant to be the hero of this story, you’ll have little doubt here. He gets some certified badass moments in these pages, such as when he kills three guards before they have a chance to reload. His daredevil scaling of the wall and using the corpse of a guard he tosses out of the window to provide leverage for Hilde to come up and do her thing was thrilling as well. There are also some moments of impassioned self-sacrifice from some of the supporting cast as they give their all to advance the siege. Impressive as they were, part of me wondered if scenes like these, as well as the “building a ramp with corpses” part, were more reflective of Kuji’s Japanese culture than Medieval Europe. Even so, the mangaka has clearly done her research here with all of the various siege weaponry and castle defenses providing some impressive variety to the battle scenes in this volume.
But what of Wolfram himself? The grinning cipher has been “Wolfsmund’s” achilles heel since the start with his seemingly plot-gifted ability to head the rebels off at any turn. Well, he started to sweat at the end of vol. 4 and continues to feel the screws put to him as the volume progresses. Though most of the tension here comes from the battle scenes, a different kind starts welling up when they can’t find the crafty bailiff. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the man is eventually found, but the Wolfram that is found isn’t the one we’ve seen through the series so far. Realizing that he’s actually in danger here, this Wolfram isn’t a smiling bastard but a straight-faced, lethal fighter whose speed rivals Walter’s. The fight at the end of the volume is an utterly tense moment with the fate of the rebellion hanging on a man-to-man battle and a fantastic culmination of the tension that has been building over the course of the volume.
...Or at least I hope it is. You see, this volume ends in a cliffhanger that’s more brutal than most. The reason for that is because with the release of vol. 5, Vertical has now caught up to the Japanese release of “Wolfsmund.” While the release of vol. 6 isn’t in doubt, there’s no indication as to when that’s going to happen. So, as much as I loved this volume I’m now frustrated by the wait I’ll have to endure to find out what happens after the end of it. In the end, all it means is that I’ll be picking up vol. 6 the instant it comes out to see if it continues the high standard of excitement that this series finally delivered here.