4 out of 5
Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! is one of the most decompressed, and yet complex, stories told. Over its several volumes, encompassing hundreds and hundreds of years, there’s minimal dialogue and – though explosive and imaginative and awesome – somewhat limited action, spaced out by long stretches of somber and silent lead, Killy, just a’wanderin’. That minimal dialogue, when used, offers up puzzling concepts that internet denizens have helped me piece together over the years, turning the thing into an incredibly rewarding read, and reread, though it’s still a difficult one, no matter how many times I go through it.
Biomega, while initially seeming like a more story-streamlined and visually cleaned up approach, blossoms in to a compressed variant of Blame!’s hyper-dense plotting, with new characters and ideas popping up between back-to-back panels of fantastical visuals. That’s the main knock, here: volume three is confusing as balls. And yet, it’s not slapdash – while there are certain scenes I still can’t exactly place how they fit in, Nihei signposts visual elements along the way that help to piece things together, and flipping back and forth through the volume (which is fun to do, given how amazing the art is) actually does help – there’s a trail of logic. There are apparently dual forces vying for different ways to affect immortality upon humans – those trying to live with the virus; those using some wild polymorphic material to mutate selected members of the population into a “new” race – and we have Toa Heavy Industries’ synthetic humans (our two bike-d leads, with their immortal bear buddy) somewhere in the middle, shooting big guns.
‘Cause big guns, and Giger-suited baddies are ever-present in Nihei’s worlds. As mentioned, the look of this book is just… incomprehensibly gorgeous and gross and jaw-dropping. The action is choreographed / telegraphed perfectly in this volume, and the character and creature designs are, each and every page, worthy of drooling over.
I recognize that this is a step away from toppling over into something being too wayward – I felt that way at points, until I let it wash over me ’til the end of the volume, then flipped back and reread a few parts again – but I’m also just awestruck at how dense and purposeful it all feels, topped off with Nihei’s artistry…