Collecting issues eight through thirteen of the series.
Writer: Len Wein
Artists: Jim Baikie, Claude St. Aubin (p), Andrew Pepoy (i) with assistance from Chris Atkinson, Dan Davis, Mark Heile, Stephanie Sanderson.
Publisher: Penny Farthing Press
1) The Victorian, aka The Hat, fights street crime in New Orleans, but where did he really come from, and who is he;
2) Professor Fitzrandolph (aka Fitz) researchs a forged bank note for a mysterious Mr Lassiter, for reasons unknown. Fitz connects the forgery to an old investigation of his into an English Secret Society (also linked to The Victorian);
3) Eudora Kincaid's bones have been found at a voodoo shrine...but she's alive and well and keeping a cabbie busy looking for The Hat;
4) There has been a huge influx of similarly forged bank notes back into the US, but heads at the US Treasury are strangely unconcerned;
5) Claude Ballare has stolen a British nuclear submarine for its computer;
6) A kid called Laszlo is brought up by The Order of the Blue Rose in the late nineteenth century - he finds out you can never go home again.
Oh, is that all that's going on???
It's a busy book, there are a lot of plot threads being juggled around here, and whilst it's not as convoluted and unfriendly as the start of book one was, the introduction for those who haven't actually read book one is not quite as detailed as it could be. However, this volume does kick off well by slowly introducing the plot threads, with a few pages devoted to each, rather than mixing and matching all strands in the space of a couple of pages.
By the end of the book, however, a large number of threads have drawn much closer together, and it's not hard to deduce the real identity of the Victorian, nor that the Order of the Blue Rose and Fitz's secret society are tied together, nor that Lassiter is seemingly working for the Ballare...it's the Eudora Kincaid thread that suffers the most throughout the book, it is hit by the Doctor Who syndrome of lots of running about, but not actually getting anywhere.
Artistically the Baikie work in the first two-thirds of the book takes a little getting used to in comparison to the first volume, but it settles down quickly and then you're unfortunately jarred back to reality with the change in artist in the last couple of chapters. Practical requirements presumably enforced the change, but it doesn't help the story at all to suddenly wonder who the hell these people are after getting used to their depictions in the previous four chapters.
That's the only fault in the presentation of this volume, however, as the heavy cardstock flappy cover, complete with embossed design is typical of the high production values applied to this whole book - a huge raft of extras fills the book out, and not just throwaway sketchbook crap either, some interesting character insights coupled with a number of creative process pages - which lose marks for not having the script as well...as interesting as pencils->inks->colours is, it pales compared to plot->script->pencils->inks->colours.
A hefty book, then, a deep read (you're not going to rattle through it in five minutes, that's for sure), and by the end you're screaming for Act III...
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