Now that he and Alice have joined forces with the organization Pandora, Oz Vessalius is back to his usual bouncy self. After all, Pandora knows a lot about the Abyss. Maybe the three operatives they’ve met – beautiful Lady Sharon, foppish Xerxes Break, and brooding Raven – can help Oz figure out why the Baskervilles are after him and help Alice find her lost memories. They should at least be able to shed some light on the nature of the “contract” that now binds Alice and Oz together.
Their very first mission may just wipe the constant grin off Oz’s face. (Though I wouldn’t bet on that lasting long.) A visit to the mansion where he first saw the Baskervilles reveals that, while Oz’s stay in the Abyss felt short, ten years had passed in his absence. So the mysterious Raven, whom Oz thought looked so much like an older version of his valet, Gil? Is, in fact, his valet, Gil. When he and Oz played together – back when they were the same age – Gil was an extremely skittish foundling boy, intensely loyal to his master despite Oz’s constant teasing. Now he’s a battle-scarred gunslinger, but his loyalty hasn’t changed. (No word yet on whether he’s still terrified of cats.)
If Oz and Gil’s reunion is good news, not so the other revelation of this mission. Every “illegal contractor” – a person who enters into a contract with a “chain,” or Abyss-born creature, without the permission and assistance of Pandora – which is to say, a person like Oz – bears a mark called an “incuse.” The incuse, which looks like a clock face tattooed on the contractor’s chest, measures time since the contract. When its marks have gone once around the circle of the clock, the contractor bearing it is sucked into the lowest level of the Abyss. Oz’s incuse hasn’t moved yet, but his days are numbered unless he and his friends can find a way to remove the incuse or safely break his contract with Alice.
There is someone who might know a way. Someone – or something – called the Intention of the Abyss, which is just as creepy and dangerous as it sounds. Pandora is eagerly seeking it – and it seems to be eagerly seeking Oz.
The art and translation of sound effects are consistent with my descriptions of Pandora Hearts, vol. 1. The strength of this volume is its character development. Mostly this centers on Gil/Raven, though there are tantalizing hints about Break and Lady Sharon. There is also further exploration of Alice’s strange psyche and Oz’s near-manic, and sometimes inappropriate, cheerfulness.
As far as content, levels of violence are pretty much the same as in the first volume, although this one features more guns. Raven smokes in a couple of scenes.
This volume is still establishing basic premises of the story – the incuse, the ten years Oz missed while in the Abyss. Still, it offers enough adventure and emotion to be a very solid installment. I think you’re intended to wonder about Oz’s emotional state – certainly the other characters do (and they sometimes express their bafflement via insults and slaps, those of them who are Alice). He still hasn’t thought to ask anything about his family. Presumably, somewhere out there, his little sister is now older than he is.