4 out of 5
Two stories: the conclusion of the Russian arc from volume 1, and a self-contained tale of debt, suicide, and revenge.
Tutomu Takahashi’s Ice Blade had an interesting upswing from tuff cop generics to complex, cross-cultural drama in its first tankobon, maintaining the same terse, cinematic-flaired tone throughout, but using that to craft a more meaty world and lead – cop Ky – as it went along, even though its two stories were isolated from one another. Volume 2 is sort of the reverse flow, ending in a more “typical” story – as its first half is the second part to that cross-cultural business – but Takahashi pushes the flourish even further here, with John Woo-like surreal imagery, crafting huge, if primal, visual symbols that then allow room for characters to speak more broadly, and open-endedly. That might sound like a bad thing, but it’s poetic – the flow is of grand gestures, with the emotional highs and lows that can accompany that, making the impact of a story that feels cobbled together from stereotypes suddenly just start to sing when all of its power hits in its final moments. Seeded throughout are odd character beats for Ky that help to buck the overlay of cliche; Takahashi keeps dialogue to a minimum, and his expressions are occasionally a little off, so this stuff is hard to parse, but it’s interesting.
Stepping back to the first half of the volume, the Russian story’s conclusion is a killer – we get to go BIG with action, and the sense of escalation is excellent. It’s a wholly satisfying second half, and amps us up for the more heavy-handed mood of the latter half.