Still Going Strong (in its Way)
The story and time keep rolling in this third deluxe collection, containing many small stories and ending with a stand-alone narrator focus issue. The collection begins and ends with disappointing notes, primarily in Yorick's and another character's vituperation against God and/or His (non)existence. The pervasive obscenity and occasional nudity is bad enough, but these brief vocal tidbits definitely add nothing (though the guest character's expression/frustration at the end is more sincere and understandable, since it's more against the failure of their mystical sky spirit than Jesus). The first two-part story continues this overtly anti-religious theme for a time, as Vaughan dredges up historical tidbits against monastic and cloistered life, regardless of whether any of it is actually true (considering he makes up quite a few secret organizations and histories for his story, it's hard to trust his historical "anecdotes"). This is similarly disappointing and seemingly unnecessary until the guest fling for Yorick (he increasingly has fewer problems cheating on Beth, though he does regret it, for all the good that does) expresses the need to continue to hold to faith, though had she expressed this more theologically accurately, that would have been nice. The return of the samurai and her quest for Ampersand is cleverly written, with her communication with Dr. Mann, until the stunning revelation at the end with which Dr. Mann she is actually speaking/taking orders. The best aspect of this collection is the return of Hero, and the beginning of her seeming restoration to sanity. She is still a long way from where she needs to be, but the hope the baby boy in Kansas is still alive is a good sign, as well as some of the (extra graphic) dream sequences she experiences. The subtle revelations of her past with her grandfather and fights with her parents may help explain part of why she became an Amazon, as well as the somewhat forced "Victoria" part of her life (did she do something weird to Yorick, too? - did everyone abuse Yorick as a boy?), but at times Vaughan seems to lean too much toward easy answers for why people are the way they are - but he does seem to know where he is going, and the story is still only about halfway complete. It's good that Vaughan partly resolved the explanation of why Yorick and Ampersand survived, and it was well done how that information became somewhat irrelevant with the interference of Toyota the Samurai (and Yorick's choice to help Hero). The narrative direction takes an interesting turn as their two-year odyssey across America suddenly becomes a need to get to both Australia and Japan. The Whale story takes bizarre twists (a bold statement for a series about the last man on earth), especially with the Mann/355 situation and Yorick's increasingly-complicated commitment to Beth. Unlike the inane anti-religious story at the beginning of the collection, the philosophical/ethical questions Vaughan raises with the opium/drug smuggling aspect are smartly explored: we are kept guessing who is right and who is wrong until the end, and even then we aren't so sure. The final issue on Beth is an interesting narration shift, but the title is inscrutable - the boy has already lost the girl, in a way, 2 years ago, but if the point is for her to finally realize he is still alive (has it really taken her 2 years to do this? what has she really been doing for 2 years, or does this issue take place some other time?), isn't she going to go find him and then the title should be "girl finds boy"? The issue is marred by the pervasive obscenity - is this really how atheists in love talk to each other? I know I've lived a sheltered life, but the people I know don't talk like this, at least not around me. The narrative twists and turns this collection takes are impressive, in that they keep the story going and add to the characters without being overly repetitive or forced (except for, perhaps, Hero). Even Dr. Mann gets a new lease on life, finding her voice and strength again, even though it becomes somewhat embittered by the end. The return of Alter Tse'Elon in a dramatic fashion, somewhat saddening as well, is another good tidbit to keep the interest and tempered enjoyment going.