March 18, 2011

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Jormungand Vol 5

Written by Keitaro Takahashi
Illustrated by Keitaro Takahashi
Viz

The complexity of the arms dealing world is on display in this fifth volume of Jormungand, as Koko agrees to ship humanitarians as though they were the very guns that harm so many they wish to save, running afoul of a local warlord. Like the post office, though, Koko's team will always deliver, regardless of the cargo. Plus, Valmet has unfinished business, and it's high time she does something about it. But what will Jonah say, let alone Koko?

I really like that Takahashi takes us down a different path this time that still uses the familiar framework of Koko's life as an arms dealer. While I find it a bit problematic that a humanitarian organization would use an arms dealer, given that Koko is part of the problem and not the solution, but you have to admit, it's an effective way to be smuggled into a hostile country--even if things don't work out quite as planned.

The interplay between the various characters in this primary arc is also quite strong. The tangled web Koko and company stride across on a daily basis has several strings pulled here, from the US operatives who want Koko but will take whatever other rogues she gives them to Koko's family to the juxtaposition of Koko's crew taking down a tyrant that they might just as easily have been aiding if the bankrollers had been different. In fact, looking carefully, you can see that Koko isn't exactly pleased to be going toe to toe with a character called the Dragon of the Balkans, but she manages in that way that makes you want her to come out on top, even if her work is just about as odious as that of the mass murderer she faces.

Perhaps best of all, however, remains Koko's cryptic dialog with Jonah, whose role in the manga has slipped a bit, I've noticed, as time goes on. He's still the focal character on the back cover copy, but here we primarily see him as a passive observer and occasional combatant. He's being used more as a sounding board for Koko, which is fine (her comments about dragons and warlords are the high point of the manga) but I'm curious if he swings back into focus or if we're making a permanent change to Koko as the front-runner. (The covers tend to lean in that direction.)

Overall, this continues to be a solid read, and I'm looking forward to being fully caught up soon as I have volume six sitting on my nightstand. If you're looking for a good action manga with adult themes, this is definitely recommended.