Genuine quote, or subliminal cry for help from me trying to compress it into one post? You decide! OK time to wrap up this over-long arc and wrap up my look at the series so far, I'm probably going to come across a little terse in places because the excessive verbiage is back with a vengeance and even the actions scenes aren't immune. Check out my conclusion for the reasons why I am not doing Book 10 now, as well as my assessment of the series. Black Lagoon are a courier outfit of four people operating out of the Thai city of Roanapur made-up of Dutch - the leader, Benny - the tech guy, Rock - the planner and Revy - the muscle. The "El Baile de la Muerte" [aka The Dance of Death] arc tells the heartwarming story of Roberta, a maid to a Venezuelan family the Lovelaces. When her master, Diego was killed by a bomb at a left-wing political rally he was attending his son was left orphaned and also now the family head. His death triggered Roberta's past as an assassin, guerilla fighter and plain ol'murderer. She disappears and discovers the truth, that the bomb was planted by a group of US soldiers working for the NSA. The soldiers are in Roanapur on a mission to take out a high status Triad associate hence local Triad leader Chang having an interest in them and getting them out of the city as soon as possible. Meanwhile Garcia has hired Rock and Revy to help try and save Roberta, with him bringing along another martial arts gun shooty maid he luckily had on the staff, a teenage girl called Fabiola. Unfortunately it might be too late for Roberta, she's suffered a total psychotic break. She flushed out the US soldiers with men she bought via a third party, and the Colombian's also have Roberta as a person of interest so their army attacked at the same time. During the gun battle between the various parties Revy, Fabiola and three mercenaries they hired try and reach Roberta before she is hurt, but Garcia gets separated from them and finds her but ends up seeing her beat a man to death and he falls into a traumatised state. When Roberta sees him she decides that he is just another hallucination and points her gun at him as he lies there... And now the conclusion.
[Note: This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left]
We begin with Revy, Fabiola and the three mercenaries (Shenhua, Sawyer and Lotton) still in the middle of a raging battle. "Hey bitch" says Shenhua to Revy, "smell of blood getting stronger. Better to be careful". Revy says that the "hound" in Roberta has got control. Revy goes on to say they'll probably need to severely injure her to subdue her, when Fabiola objects and asks what about Garcia, Revy says that she needs to wake up "I doubt she could tell the difference between the young master and a cactus right now."
She yells a warning to to Shenhua as Roberta crashes down in front of them. She dodges Shenhua's blades, breaks Sawyer's chainsaw and unloads her foot into Lotton's dick. Fabiola tries to reason with her, but Roberta just dreamily asks her if she's done cleaning up the living room, because the master is looking for his paper. As the injured mercenaries look on, Fabiola falls to her kees and they all watch Roberta walk away. Revy asks the distressed Fabiola what Roberta said to her?
They fuss round him offering him water and asking him where he is from. Garcia mumbles and they decide he must be in shock right now. Garcia slaps the proffered water away. A man called Sanchez speaks in Spanish to him and tries to joke around ending by saying "we're the good guys, okay? So trust us." All Garcia can think right now is "why?"
But you can't keep away from Roberta for long and she's back on their heels. She is chasing a different team of them from who have Garcia with them. They call the Alpha team in a bit of a panic as they can't lose her and their diversions haven't worked. Caxton gives them orders to keep evading her and not try and take her down, "that's not our objective!" They discuss who they think she is and while they are distracted, Garcia notes a handgun lying on the floor. He picks it up and points it at the soldiers yelling "you... you... If you people hadn't... If you hadn't"
He fires but he doesn't hit anyone as Ray tackles him to the ground and his shot goes wide. Sanchez points his gun at Garcia but Caxton yells at him to put his gun down. Caxton says to Garcia that he didn't get here by accident, "what are you?" He screams at them that they are the ones who ruined his and Roberta's lives. They don't even know the people whose lives they destroyed and tells them what they did. They are shocked and uncomfortable to come face-to-face with a consequence of their actions. Caxton speaks honestly to Garcia:
Caxton: "Kid. There's no way I can apologise to you. Whether that operation was right or not is not up to me to decide. But, I won't make any excuses for what happened between us. You have the right of revenge."
He tells Garcia it's unfortunate this mission did this to him while having a brief Vietnam flashback, he says what happened was complicated and "involves nations and politics" regardless he was the one who killed Garcia's family and hands him his gun. He tells Garcia he's a man and can make up his own mind, "revenge is a valid motive".
We then get a flashback to Garcia and his father discussing one of those "Magic Eye" pictures that were everywhere in the early 90's. Garcia says he can't see the fourth thing in the picture but his father's advice to look at it from the front and back allows him to see it at last. Garcia says he can't understand why he didn't see it before and his father says it's because he looked at it with bias. He must look at things from every angle, "so you have to think hard and decide for yourself". Garcia reaches for the gun.
|Garcia is offered a choice.|
Then we cut to Dutch and Benny. Rock is talking on the phone to Benny, he tells Rock as a co-worker he likes him and he'd hate to see him go. Then he hands the phone to Dutch and tells him to "go easy on him." Rock apologises to Dutch who says that doesn't cut it. They verbally spar for a bit, then Rock says his role is to get the problems out of town "at the very last moment." Dutch wonders how that changes things. Rock says if they can get these problems out of town the other problem will leave too, "and that's when our one and only lucky charm comes in handy for us."
Dutch: "How'd we get caught up in this Rock? It always comes down to this...once again we end up with a huge problem on our hands."
Rock says that they are just a part of this shady town. Dutch says he isn't sure, he takes pride in being a free man. So Rock grins to himself and says to look at it another way, of the current ordeal "we're the only ones who get to have any fun". This leaves both Dutch and Benny briefly making wtf faces. Dutch says he knows that only the "suicidal and the adventurers. Which one are you?" Rock says maybe he'd like to put a bet on that. Dutch hangs up saying it isn't only Roberta who needs a shrink.
|Someone's feeling perky.|
She backs off and Garcia tells them not to shoot her, "she's the side of me that chose revenge. The one you people... broke!" Caxton says that revenge is between Garcia and him, he's not planning on getting killed by anyone else. He gives Garcia the gun and tells Sanchez and Horner to take Garcia with them to the alley. Roberta spots him and once again looks dreamy, she says when she is done with the hunt she'll make some tea. Garcia says to Caxton to please take care of her.
And we rejoin Revy, Fabiola and the mercenaries. Revy is vexed at the amount of time they lost, Shenhua noting the movement of the various factions out of a window says that everyone is heading for an intersection at Ransap. She asks Lotton how badly she hurt him but he says he was expecting her to do something like that and drops a sports cup with a huge dent in it in front of them, "Oh. That's what you were fiddling with" says Revy.
Fabiola spots Hotel Moscow (the Russian mafia in Roanapur led by Balalaika and made up of Afghan war vets) going into action. They open fire on Roberta and pin her down in the alley and the US soldiers manage to escape her again. But she's an individual and they are a squad so Roberta manages to evade, so they move to contain her with caution. Shenhua takes issue with finding out Hotel Moscow are involved, it's serious now does Revy understand that?
Revy: "How the fuck was I supposed to know. You stupid cunt!! If I knew I woudn't be running my ass off with you morons!"
Shenhua and Revy are about to start another of their nuclear level rows when Sawyer, much to Revy's bewilderment, tickles her. But it distracts them from fighting each other and they spot Garcia with the two US soldiers. They get ready to take the soldiers out.
|Revy One-Hand for a while now.|
Revy regards the radio with blood still streaming out of her damanged hand. Then she hurls it away and unleashes a stream of frutstrated invective aimed at the Russian woman. Shenhua actually manages to put some sense into Revy's head when she tells her only "people in wuxia stories fight somebody they know stronger than them" when Revy seems to be heading for confrontation with Balalaika. She says the hole she has in her leg right now cannot compare with a hole in the head "but if I no stop you. if you want to die, die alone." This leads to Revy letting even more of her frustration out on some bins while cursing up a storm.
Fabiola then steps in and says that the matter they agreed on is over now and payment will be made through their bank. Revy demands to know what she is going to do? Fabiola says nothing, "it's all over now. That is all." Shenhua also says it is over, "we always lose more than we gain when we work with you bitch." Revy finally smokes a ciggie and says fuck if she knows what will happen to Roberta, "either those soldiers or this town'll take care of her." And goes into Epic Revy Sulk Mode. As Fabiola goes towards the still somewhat stunned Garcia, having been left behind at his request by the two soldiers.
Back with Caxton and Team Alpha, he hopes that Garcia has been taken care of and also that they return the Colt he handed to him. It was his father's who would hate to see it in the hands of some crook. He assesses the fighting skills of Balalaika and her men and says half-admiringly that she hasn't got a lot of men but "she's turned this block into a kill zone." She is experienced so if she is heading them into a trap they are in real trouble.
Meanwhile the Russian's note that the Americans have reached the intersection and have hooked up with another team. They have Roberta still pinned down in a dead-end alley. Balalaika says they don't need to escort the Americans anymore. She says that this is not an operation that should end up as "Chang's subcontract" but she calls her soldiers to stand down anyway.
We then join Chang who is told this, thinks it interesting and then shrugs it off. He and his second, Biu, then discuss the man who is the reason the US soldiers are in Roanapur, a man called "Shue Yan" who is a warlord and part of their heroin business in the region. He then says he's had a call from Rock who told him the plan is that the Lagoon Traders will lead the Americans into the "Golden Triangle" and Roberta will clean up what happens next.
Biu asks if Balalaika will keep their pact with them? He goes on to say that she's a professional soldier and the fact she's conducting things so professioally is what is scares him. Chang just grins and says "who knows? I sure don't". He says he told her to "dance with him instead of the country bumpkin [the South American cartel]. That's it." He says he looked at the few cards he was dealt and played them. If Balalaika breaks the pact and goes after both Roberta and The Americans it won't matter. They'll duke it out with her like they did in '93.
|Chang always keeps his cool.|
We join Balalaika talking to Caxton, she tells him her side have suffered no casualties after he enquires. He says thanks to their help they can return to their original objective and if he knew who she was he'd be happy to put her in for the Silver Star, but she probably doesn't want that. What does she want? She tells him "we are not mercenaries. Honour is our reward." But she asks if she could have a moment of his time. He agrees.
Balalaika: "To be quite honest... we would very much like... to exchange fire with you. Ever since the days of rolling round the red sands of Afghanistan, when we were still alive. This is the battle we have sought. A battle we've waited and longed for..."
She is aware of Caxton's record and his distinguished soldier and that he and his "courageous men continue to fight for your country with loyalty and bravery." An honour that cannot be measured with medals, only those who have been on the battlefield are privileged to understand what that means.
Caxton warily thanks her saying he just did his duty to his country and comrades, that's all. He tells her that she too is the same if the way she commanded the operation tonight is any representation. She thanks him, then with a look of anguish on her face asks him why after all the things they seem to share "how did we end up... so different from you?" She goes on to say that the dead always envy the living, "was it our countries? The era? Was it ideology?"
|Balalaika in uncharistically emotional mode.|
He asks what happened to her and asks perceptively if she was "medically discharged?" She says she doesn't blame him for thinking that. But she discharged on request after the '89 withdrawal from Afghanistan. But she says that is the official reason, actually it she was pushed out for a breach of international law during a cross-border operation, "I saved a child in a refugee camp. That's all." Caxton goes wide-eyed at this revelation. She then bids him farewell saying the crisis isn't over for him yet, "I pray for your continued fortune in battle and offer you a salute. Good luck." And she and her men exit the storyline.
Caxton is left knowing what to think, he says that Roanapur is a "chaotic nightmare." He says this place has the veneer of civilisation, it has laws, ethics and paved highways, "it is state-of-the-art Sodom. How could a place like this exist for this long." One of his men say that they has been a huge gun-battle but no cops or fire department or resident in the street. Fve blocks down it's like nothing has happened. They decide to retreat from the city and await further orders from the NSA. We spend two pages on the Bearded dude and Pinalo cleaning up the last of the men they hired on Roberta's behalf, then they too are gone from the narrative.
Time to find out what sister Eda, nun in the gunrunning Rip-Off Church and also undercover CIA agent is up to. She, if you recall, wants the NSA soldiers (not actually a thing according to my expert on military matters) dead as the CIA deems their operations as stepping all over their toes and Roberta was a way to get rid of them cleanly. Some local member of the "church" says he set up some "documents, farewell gift and everything else." He is curious about it but she doesn't let on what she is up to and tells him she'll be gone a while and to look out for Roberta.
Roberta is raging in a hotel room. The manifestation of her conscience tries to speak to her, but she unloads her gun into him. Then someone comes in and leaves a bottle of booze and an envelope with a note and some documents. She reads the note which says "The hunt is not over. I will tell you where the Fox is". She starts laughing madly and pours the bottle over her head, then starts eating the bottle saying now she will "tear them to pieces."
|Roberta has a drink problem.|
Caxton says he never forgot the op in question. He was protecting a girl from a village the men he had assumed command of were looting. The most obnoxious one is called Larkin and he says that Caxton is their leader in name only, the village are Vietcong sympathisers so he should leave them to rape and pillage them. The other men join in saying Caxton should "back the fuck off."
Caxton: "You guys are right. This kinda thing happens all the time during war. But that's still the logic of a thief. I should have realised much earlier. You men... use the war as an excuse to dishonour your country. You're nothing but bandits."
Larkin sneers at him. But Caxton says he let them kill the villagers but as long as the young girl is still alive he'll be the Lone Ranger and he orders Larkin to draw his gun. Then shoots him.
Larkin shouts from the ground for the others to kill Caxton and make it look like a KIA. But Ray draws his rifle and shoots Larkin. Caxton tells Ray he was his "Tonto" that day why did he back him up? Ray admits his secret shame, he'd been willing to rape the young girl who Larkin had caught. He didn't want to but he was too afraid, "if I'd isolated myself in a place like that, I would have been fighting alone. Surrounded by enemies." If Caxton hadn't stepped in he'd have raped the girl along with Larkin "all the while apologizing to her in my head." But he didn't have to, thanks to Caxton, who "recognised evil and wasn't afraid to stand alone. Even in an immoral wasteland."
|Back in Vietnam.|
Ray in the present assures him that he's always avoided sacrificing anything besides his objectives and direct enemies. He's done more than what he's been asked, he even went "above and beyond with that boy." Caxton says maybe, but what happened with that boy only involves him. And we join Fabiola having packed for them to leave. He is standing by the pool gazing at the sky. Fabiola goes to ask him what's up? He suddenly dives fully clothed into the water. She panics and tells him to come out, but he pulls her in with him. He floats saying it's better with your clothes on. Now a whole chapter of two teenagers in a pond.
Garcia splashes Fabiola and asks if he surprised her. He then laughs and asks if she thought he was losing his mind? She babbles in the negative, but Garcia turns serious and asks if she met Roberta. She says she did and that she doesn't think Roberta is coming back to the mansion, "I don't think she even remembers why and for whom she is doing it." Even if they can force her back things won't go back to the way they used to be.
Garcia says that they no longer have a home to go to. They all thought if Roberta had her revenge everything would go back to normal, but it was the moment his father was murdered that "everything changed." He then asks her if she believes Roberta came for revenge and Fabiola says Roberta's motives intentions lie elsewhere. Garcia says he agrees, he believes she wants "atonement". She decided to blame his father's killers for everything that's happened to her.
Fabiola says that Roberta is very earnest and indiscreet, she thinks coming to terms with murder is "insincere" Garcia says that Caxton too drew a line between good and evil within himself. Garcia goes on to say that "a solution that solves everything... doesn't exist." And he's going to save her. He says he is asking a lot and won't think bad of Fabiola if she returns to Venezuela ahead of him.
Fabiola says that Roberta might stay the way she is, she might get worse, she is probably something that can't be solved. He agrees but says they can start over with her, without forgetting what happened. By coming here he learned what Roberta fears. He met the man who killed his father and found out what kind of man he was and what he thought. He's feeling free right now because, "I can't be her saint. But... I can be her crutch."
Fabiola is impressed, he is going through with it even after seeing how Roberta is. Even she thought she was done, "no mattered how good natured you seemed to be... in the end I thought you were just aother naive rich kid." But now she thinks he can handle it. She says she now remembered why Roberta loved him and his father, "it's not God that saves people at a time like this, it's people. I almost forgot that in this crazy town." They clasp hands and she says that the people here took advantage of his and Roberta's suffering to make "cunning moves for themselves. I can't let the Head Matron die in this filthy place." She says they can do it, she knows they can!
|Two damp teens make a pact.|
We join the Black Lagoon, the boat the four members of the company run their business with. The NSA is paying them to take the American's to Laos so they can finish their objective to capture Shue Yan. Garcia and Fabiola are already aboard. Dutch says they have to protect themselves from Roberta and Revy is in a pissy mood. She is down with Fabiola trying to draw a gun with her injured hand. The doctor has told her none of that for two weeks. Then disses Roberta.
Fabiola scolds her, she is studying some English words and tells Revy it's helped her understand some of Revy's "nonsense". Revy notes that post-battle, Fabiola seems different.
Revy: "Nothing wrong with that. You've come clean. It happens when you shoot someone."
Revy then says there is something she need to tell her about Garcia before the shooting starts again. And then we cut to Garcia being told by Rock that the Americans will be coming aboard soon and things will be settled once and for all, "only you can resolve it amicably". No pressure!
Rock says he failed to end it in town, but as both Roberta and Garcia are still alive, the "game's not over." He says he won't miss next time, Garcia is the "golden key." Revy we then hear telling Fabiola that she doesn't think Garcia can save Roberta and actually it's Fabiola who is "the ace in the hole." Fabiola disagrees. Revy says neither "logic nor love can make sense of all this" only the round hole left by a bullet can solve things.
Fabiola says that the two of them aren't seeing things the same way. Garcia has changed she says, and Revy grumpily concedes that point. Fabiola says it's not worth them talking to each other. Revy say she has a mouth on her, and she shouldn't forget that she comes from the dumps as well and that Garcia won't be able to "squeeze out gold bricks." Fabiola moves to leave and suddenly and with great speed grabs one of Revy's guns out of its holster and points it at her while Revy points the other one at Fabiola.
|Fabiola has opinions.|
She says she's seen many people who she thinks are pigs who she'd like to kill many times over but that only fills the cesspool with more shit. Revy holsters her gun and says to her, "fine. Live an honest and poor life. By the time you die in the pigsty, maybe you'll have found heaven." She says that she might find heaven sooner because now she has no reason to save Fabiola's life and she hopes Roberta kills them both.
Fabiola says Revy always laughs with "such contempt" has she seen her face in the mirror? She tells Revy her laugh is like the skeletons on "El Dia De Los Muertas" (Dance of the Dead). Revy cackles saying she is surprised Fabiola noticed. She says she comes from the "Dark Depths of the burial tomb, gun in hand." And everyone in this town who dances the same dance will make offerings to the "poor little girl who is about to die far away in Asia". Fabiola glowers.
They arrive at the pickup point for the Americans. Dutch greets them, while Benny tells Caxton about the boat. Benny tells Caxton that Dutch is a Vietnam vet. Caxton queries Dutch about this saying he looks young. Dutch says he lied about his age when he enlisted. They banter a bit about operations their various units did, and Caxton seems to be testing Dutch. Benny then calls him away while Rock tells Caxton that Garcia wants to speak with him.
Caxton comes to the deck and without a word Garcia hands his pistol back to him. He tells Caxton he hasn't forgiven him, because of Caxton his family was ruined. Caxton says that is all the more reason to kill him, why hasn't he?
Garcia: "You really are an honourable and high-minded soldier, major. T respect you. That's not a lie."
All the same Caxton took the same road as Roberta using death and violence to save those who wanted to live. They are caught in a philosophy of death, even though they fight with pride and virtue they still cause "death and destruction" and repeat it over and over because using violence is the only way he knows to resolve anything.
|The dancers of death.|
She's still a killing machine who wants to kill Caxton and his men, but he has come to tear her away from the dance. But he needs the help of the people still dancing. Caxton says he hasn't ever been on an op this "peculiar" before. But agrees to Garcia's request and takes the pistol from him. Some time later he goes to his men and says the situation has changed and he wants their opinions.
We then cut to Fabiola and Rock who is getting antsy as he puffs on his cigarettes. He tells Fabiola he knows Garcia is to drag the soldiers into this "but it's not enough. He'll need more traps" to contain Roberta and regain her sanity. Garcia is standing with Caxton as he puts the new plan to them. They are going to complete their op and Roberta's prescence will be a big factor. Ray backs him up saying they'll continue to fight for justice, "that's all that matters."
Meanwhile Rock has put a plan to Fabiola, but we don't hear what it is, just her reaction which is to say "no way in hell!" She tells him this isn't some magic trick, one wrong move and someone dies. He asks her if they can get through this without risking anything at all. He says it has to be her and Garcia on stage "directing things." He says she knew it would have to be like this, they can eliminate every risk except for chance itself, "and when pure chance is all that's left... it becomes the greatest gamble".
Then we join Eda, she finds Roberta at the airport and tells her she is a bit smelly. She also said she told the people at the gate to let her through. The Black Lagoon will reach its destination within 36 hours. She's arraged a car to take her to the buffer zone.
Roberta grabs her and demands to know if she is with them. Eda tells her to knock it off, "shut the fuck up and listen bitch." She knows she is after the US soldiers and if she shows her teeth to the wrong side she'll lose them. She knows she's a "whack job" but if she is too crazy for Eda she won't be worth her "charity". Roberta grouchily thanks Eda who says she hopes Roberta enjoys the hunt.
|Eda and Roberta. The fanfiction practically writes itself!|
Caxton initially refuses, but Garcia says they might be able to pin her down but he is the only one who can stop her. He gives in and tells his squad which has split into several smaller units that the kids will stay with him in the command unit. Garcia tells him that he needs one thing and points at Caxton's pistol. The Black Lagooners watch them go. A surly Revy wants to bet on how many make it back. Rock is jauntily snapping his fingers and asks if Caxton's pistol is now in Garcia's hands. Benny says he thinks so. Rock says if Garcia has the gun they have two cherries lined up, and Chang has lost.
They move out across the terrain. There is literally tonnes of verbiage now between the various units as they keep on the lookout for Roberta. And they finally run into her, back in her maid outfit, armed to the teeth. She's also cleared out the plant and has a bound and gagged Shue Yan with her.
She starts firing on them and they realise she is using a musket and her shots are hitting them through their vests. Now she has decided to kill them and they start falling to her. Caxton orders everyone to take off their NVGs and prepare for close quarter combat. She using flechette rounds on them, using the musket and Caxton realises that this means she has to have a few seconds to reload.
Roberta kills a couple more and stands laughing that "your little foxes" are all dying. She starts rambling about a Colombian vigilante called Decima. Ray gets angry and calls this a "fucking farce". Elite soldiers being wasted in the jungle by a maid from South America. He says she's a monster and they can't contain her, he asks Caxton if they should recover the package (Shue Yan) or enter the village, "give us an order!"
|Roberta takes out some of the soldiers.|
Garcia: "Just as you value the lives of your men.. Major... I value Roberta's too. This is my fight. Against you. Against me. Against a world like this."
Caxton speaks through his radio to Roberta who is resting by the bodies of a couple of them she killed. He says the responsibilty lies soley with him, she should hand Shue Yan over to his men and he'll surrender to her. He says it's the best course for both of them. She tells him that erasing people from the world is what's best for her. They will not get away, she won't let them get away with it.
Garcia takes the radio, and tells her to wait for him at the entrance to the village. She stammers that she will. Garcia then tells Caxton he has a plan, but it's a "shakey one" and he'll need Caxton's help. Fabiola hands the pistol to Garcia and he tells her he'd scared thinking of what could happen to them. They hug and tells him he can do it.
|Garcia and Roberta. Reunited.|
Garcia says that he can answer her questions and maybe put right her mistakes, but it doesn't matter anymore. She yells that it does matter and they still have to pay. He only has to say the word and she'll kill them all. Garcia raises the gun and says it was Caxton who started all this and can also end it. And he shoots Caxton who falls to the ground unmoving.
She pulls out her own pistol as a reflex, then stutters that Garcia shouldn't have done that she should have. He says no matter who she kills she cannot atone for her sins, "it doesn't end anything. Everything's already over." She shouts that he can't be the young master because he would never say something like that. He raises the gun and points it at her.
He tells her he's been wonder what he'd say to her when he finally met her again. He says if she trusts him, his bullet won't kill her and she should look at Caxton and realise it's over. But Roberta's bad self is egging her on, saying the dance of death never ends. He fires. She fires.
Garcia: "See? You're alive."
And he gives her a passionate kiss and she crumples to the ground with him on top of her. He says it took him so long to realise something so simple. Then we see he has a wound to his right abdomen and he slumps to the ground by Roberta.
|Umm.. maybe he's older than he looks?|
Garcia clasps Roberta's hands saying Caxton died when he shot him. She died and so did he, "we're all dead now." Now they are all dead the dance can come to an end. He'll bear Roberta's sins with her, he came there to tell her that. She holds him and says he's grown up so much. He quietly says he stood on his toes to reach her and she lays him out on the ground.
Caxton checks him out and says the wound has grazed his liver and exited. He stopped the bleeding but it could still get infected. There are troops moving towards their position, Caxton says they are abandoning the op and regrouping at the Black Lagoon. Suddenly Ray points his rifle at Roberta and tells Caxton to step away.
Caxton tells him to put it down, this is over. Ray says he can't be like him, but he can't bury the memories of all the men she killed her tonight, "I can't figure it out. Whose fault was it? Who's to blame?" Caxton shoots Ray while Garcia looks on sadly saying "the killing never stops." And they all went home for lemon... I mean they return to the Black Lagoon.
There is a cheery Rock who says "I'm really happy I had a hand in saving you all." Fabiola scowls then points her pistol at him and fires. He is knocked on his arse, the gun was full of blanks.
Fabiola: "Oh yeah. We were so lucky. So were you. How does it feel to bet your life?"
Rock stutters that he really wanted to help them. Revy just sneers that these guys need a reason to kill someone. Fabiola says that they will never see each other again and he and that one day even God will be sick of their "silly games." So until then, Rock and the others can dance their waltz in "this foul city".
|Ooh, feel that burn Rock.|
Chang puffs on his ciggy and says that what happened was "heavy". Rock asks if he really is the "crook" Fabiola called him out as? Chang says whatever the motive there's only one outcome. Maybe Rock wanted the experience of a big gamble that would fry his brain. Or maybe he wanted to save the boy from an awful situation. Rock says he really wanted to save them.
Chang asks if he honestly believes he did? Does he think they found happiness? All that's waiting for them is a thorny path, "doing what's right.. doesn't necessarily lead to a happy ending". They have a long life ahead of them, maybe too long. If he wants to take time out to find out "what's beyond good and evil that's not such a bad thing Rock." He then invites Rock for a drink and they can raise a glass to Garcia, Roberat and Fabiola "standing in their thorny South American wasteland". Finally the end.
So there we are. There is some potential great stuff around innocence and war, the responsibilty of causing death in the field, PTSD, guilt, teenagers forced into military situations and the need for atonement. And if you want to read that in manga format, read Full Metal Alchemist instead, it might be twenty-seven volumes but it is so well written it passes by much faster than this did. I think Rei Hiroe as an artist is incredibly talented, great at action scenes, doesn't suffer from "sameface" issues and can create lots of interesting characters. But as a writer he's much better suited to the shorter, punchier arcs of the early volumes. His story felt very much like it got away from him here. There was all that set-up with Balalaika versus Chang in volume 7 that went absolutely nowhere (although he promised in the book's afterword he'd pick it up again, we'll see). Pinalo and the bearded man go unexplained at least for now. And too much important stuff happens off panel, most annoyingly with the non-resolution of book 8's cliffhanger. There is some attempt to reflect in both writing and art, Chang's grinning and attitude in Rock, but I still feel like I missed a whole arc of character development for Rock to make this feel more natural that he'd suddenly be seeing this as a fun gamble not a something he feels morally obliged to intervene in. I think it's supposed to be that he's finally become a part of the city, just as corrupt and self-serving who did it basically for kicks but why he such a shithead about it? That at least doesn't fit with how Rock has been portrayed even in the arc immediately preceeding it. I mean he did deserve his "The Reason You Suck" speech from Fabiola for having such a shitty attitude about it, but I am not sure he'd have been as clumsy in patting himself on the back for it in front of some obviously traumatised people. I dunno, rubbed me the wrong way it did. Also it's a bit frustrating that in a book called Black Lagoon we spend very little time here with the actual Black Lagoon crew. Dutch and Benny are already sidelined enough as it is, and in this volume even Rock and Revy hardly share a chapter's worth of appearences between them. So we got yet more lengthy speeches filling in tonnes of backstory for people who are only temporary players in the larger series. Oh well. Now, I said at the start I was going to do all ten volumes, but then I realised that volume 10 only collects the first part of another lengthy arc. Seemed a bit silly to sign off like that when this ends in a neater fashion. When volume 11 comes out (or even if there are more!) I shall revisit the series here. It also makes for a good cutting off point because after this arc the series went on an unplanned hiatus for five years. If you're looking for reasons, the afterword provides one. "I'm tired" writes Rei Hiroe and I think the length of the series, which he admits was unplanned, just burned him out. I won't spoil what his return to the series is like, you'll have to wait the three of you still reading who care. If you're more casually interested in the series, it had a two-seaso anime adaptation that is actually pretty faithful to the arcs it adapts, this arc is not one of them, it concludes with the Japan arc of several volumes ago. Anyway, back to the usual US and UK comics in May. Enjoy!