It’s been several months since I read the previous collection (I think there was a hiatus while the TV show was in high gear). So I thought I may have forgotten something. But no: the story starts in media res with the students on a peyote trip in the desert. As usual, Marcus is torn apart by guilt and self-doubt (“everyone he loves dies”). He has a wild psychedelic experience, full of horrifying images and all of the people in his life, including his parents and President Reagan. But he comes to a conclusion. The group knows too much, and will never be left alone: they have to return to Kings Dominion.
Elsewhere, Quan manages to help Saya escape from her sadistic brother, but gets revenge instead of forgiveness. Marcus, Maria and their friends return to Kings Dominion as heroes. Having survived the great exam, Master Lin declares Marcus a legacy: theoretically safe from harm. But the school is the same snake pit it always was. Marcus and Maria have to deal with Shabnam and the rest, plus a bunch of new students. The arc ends with Maria and Saya embracing: Maria thought Saya was dead.
The collection also includes the FCBD 2019 issue, a flashback titled “Marcus’ First Week at Kings.” The volume concludes with a cover gallery and some of Wes Craig’s interior roughs.
Willa and Edison are on their way to Kansas City, where Willa’s dad’s notebook says she can find the fix for Earth’s low gravity problem. Ironically, they are travelling on a train that has artificial gravity. But not for long: Barrow (the industrialist they’re running from) cuts off the gravity on all of the trains to stop her (since he’s now sure which one she’s on). Stopped in the middle of a forest, they soon discover why most people have gathered in cities.
Bugs adapted to the low gravity quickly, and grew to enormous size. Garbett does a great job with the surreal giant insects: they’re almost as much a part of the new characters in this arc as the humans. Once off the train they are helped by farmers who have learned to survive in the forest, and they have their own agenda. They lure Barrow to the farm so they can get security codes from him and attack Chicago for revenge. In the end Barrow is headed back to Chicago with the farmer army at his back, and Willa is headed to Kansas City (even though she has learned that it is probably in ruins). And a mysterious stranger has her under surveillance, and is coming for her.
Henderson’s afterword promises big changes for the next arc, called Fix the World. A supplemental section reproduces several script pages with their accompanying black and white inked pages.
The continuing story of the Redlands witches is again heavy with history: in fact it opens in ancient Egypt. So clearly the witches go way back…but there’s more mystery than clarity. Count me among the readers that finds this more mystifying than mysterious. I have trouble keeping track of the characters: they’re kind of amorphous. There’s a ghost they call Casper who is bonded to Bridget (Nancy has most of her memories, but not all). Ro and Alice reconnect with their devil-father, who needs their help executing a prison break. And there’s the freaky magical girl Itsy. Laurent brings his dead dog Vlad to Ro to revive him, and Itsy volunteers to help. Like the first volume, the narrative keeps shifting between different times and places. Del Rey’s art is plenty moody–aided by Bellaire’s colors–but its sketchiness just makes the story even harder to follow. I wasn’t taken by the first collection, but decided to give the second a try. This will probably be the end of the line for me. The collection does include a bunch of cool period back matter (newspaper clipping, ads, and the like) from Becca Carey. And I like Kevin O’Mara’s moody Southern snapshots that follow each of the individual issues.
The second installment follows two characters as they attempt to discover the truth about the sunlight-resistant killer who dominated the first arc. The rich target Rose/Cielo has lost her feeling of safety. She does not trust her father, and has started to question her whole entitled lifestyle. She seeks help from detective David Baxter (“Bax”), but he is on his own quest. Cielo’s path takes her into the Underground, a black marketplace. The killer priest had a passage pin for access, so she follows that lead. Meanwhile Bax is outside the city, where he is shown another albino man who does not burn in the sun, and meets former Mayor Holden.
Along the way there are also a number of flashbacks to life just after The Flare. Both paths seem to involve Solarity, the company run by Cielo’s father–and the history paints a complicated picture of a power struggle that is more about corporate greed than the public welfare. The collection again concludes lots of extras: script pages, art process, and covers. New colorist Dispenza did a great job, but I’m still not keen on Timpano’s art. Can’t complain about the story telling pace: the collections each contain only four issues.