Biomega vol. 2 – Tsutomu Nihei

4 out of 5

My goodness. While I love the Dark Souls-y, learn-by-fire approach to storytelling Nihei took with Blame!, in which narrative is indirectly delivered and it’s up to you to put the pieces together, it is, undeniably, an often difficult series to parse, alongside its scratchy (though awesome) visuals. It is, very much, an acquired taste. As he’s grown, Tsutomu has maintained a lot of those unique elements, but has mapped them to more directly defined worlds in Knights of Sidonia and APOMSIMZ, both of which I enjoy immensely, and love at moments. Between then and now, though, there came Biomega, which dialed in on Blame!’s most actiony action moments and chucked out the minimalism for an accessible – though still expansive – zombie tale. That expansiveness is on display in volume 2, as more details on the bad guys’ (the CEU / DRF) intentions of spreading the plague come to light, and also introduces Zoichi’s opposite number, a female biker / big gun user who jumps to the protection of the best anthropomorphic bear character ever.

Yes, a lot of this is just insane action and explosions and acrobatics and insane physics, Nihei doubling down on his chunky inking style here for some devastating contrasts of set pieces to characters, and yes, it is all jaw-droppingly awesome. These are pages that are so intense and fun that you reread them right afterward, then flip through them again to salivate over a particularly cool head explosion or motorcycle jump. The inclusion of more virus-mutated soldiers who lean in to Nihei’s Giger fetishy designs is, of course, expected, but always welcomed.

Because Zoichi and counterpart look similar when all suited up, the jumps between their two narratives can take a panel or so to get your bearings – though usually there are clues via the other characters they’re around – and some of the geography on the action feels conflicting at points, possibly trading a cool beat for a more logical one.

But these are easy, very minor sins to forgive.