Vasilis Lolos returns with a followup to the excellent Last Call, vol. 1. (This review is from an advanced reader copy, and which did contain spelling errors, so please note that the content of this comic could change before final publication.) Volume two of the story continues the tale of Sam and Alec aboard a nightmarish train. It begins by following up with the cliffhanger ending of part one (the re-appearance of an older Alec) and thus focuses more on Alec. It starts out as a framed story where Alec is telling Sam about his time from off of the train.
Alec relates that after he falls from the train he thinks he is going to die until he wakes up when a group of punk kids start to urinate on him. Things continue to get worse as he starts a fight and is chased by motorcycles until he is eventually captured by what turns out to be the law, meets another person back from the USA, and becomes a detective in training. All of this is relayed in what is likely to be the first third or fourth of the volume.
So now Alec is much older and Sam is the same age. The age difference is not really addressed in this part of the story, other than a short mention of inter-dimensional space. This feels like a weakness in the story construction. As more plot elements are added (Alec is back on the train investigating a murder), the threads of the story are starting to lose their cohesion. This was an advantage in the first volume, because it was the first look at a new world and the reader expects world expansion, but in the second volume it smacks of poor story planning.
The story getting away from its core continues in the art. Art in this volume seems to trend more toward the less finished look, with more instances of manga shorthands like the angry face marks: the embarrassed hatch-marked face coupled with the embarrassed exaggerated sweat. While this works in a manga and was used successfully in smaller doses in the previous volume, it is a bit forced in this offering and makes the tone and style more uneven. This sort of unevenness would be fine and even forgivable if it were not accompanied by a similarly weak story. Overall the art is still very strong and still stylistically evocative of Paul Pope, but is (in this review copy at least) weaker and less polished than in the first offering.
It feels like a departure and not in a good way from the first book. All of the disparate parts fail to work together as a whole in this outing. I hope that the subsequent volumes of Alec and Sam’s story are more cohesive than this one, without losing the imagination and inventiveness of the first.