This book has hit the cultural zeitgeist at the exact right time, and the proof is in the printings: as of today the first issue of the series is going to a third printing, and the second issue is heading to a second. Personally, I think this second issue may be a little more popular simply because the sequential auteur in charge, our pal Kaare Andrews, strikes an even more powerful note in this book than the previous one.
Also? The featured baddie is Christopher Baal, who looks strangely familiar...
Yup. That dude.
In this issue Renato infiltrates a decadent orgry of a party put on by the richiest of the rich using the invitation from the previous issue's stain-of-the-week, Douglas Bradley (dude). Thankfully this is a masquerade gathering, so the fact that Renato is literally wearing his Freelancer mask makes everything all the better.
Realizing he has to fit in, Renato succumbs to a room full of adoring mistresses -- leaving his mask on, as do they all to creepy "Eyes Wide Open"-effect -- and is then brought further into the party to a room so absolutely disturbing that it causes the reader's stomach to drop.
Needless to say, that sets off our boy Renato.
The strength of this book is its absolute commitment to visual storytelling. Andrews is a master of the medium, able to utilize every bit of panel space to recreate a dynamic visual that NEVER detracts from the story itself. He continues his mission of incorporating vintage comic aesthetics to vigorous effect.
One panel. One action. All power.
Andrews also uses a wonderful effect on the flashbacks, wherein the panels seem old, beaten-up. The lines in the pictures themselves evoke folded-up photos, where the owner of the picture wants to keep them secret and safe. The coloration also gives the memories a vintage feeling, and the dialogue between Church and Renato is succinct and wonderful, highlighted by one of my favorite panels in the series.
Still, all the staggeringly beautiful artwork shouldn't (and doesn't) gloss over the fact that Andrews is telling a story for our times. Iconic stories are a mirror of our society, no matter how grimy they can get, and this book is the grimiest of mirrors. There is a clear disparity between the classes in our modern world, and by examining the evolution of this disparity is a difficult task that can seem ham-handed. Not Andrews - his story is gripping and interesting as it unfolds, with both the reader and Renato not quite certain how things will end up.
It also stay sublimely human, as this issue further explores the character of Bliss, and how she and Renato are tied together. Their scenes are touching, both as adults and especially as children. The first issue teased her as a character, and I look forward to seeing what will become of her.
But the fact of the matter is that this is a dynamic follow-up to the first issue, with plot points and especially with artwork that will keep this book insanely in demand. Just for good measure, he's another pic of Renato dealing with Baal:
LOVE it. Based on the superior artwork, the stylistic choices, and the development of an absolutely enthralling story, I'm giving this issue a standing ovation and
10 out of 10 Knifey-Guns
The first print is probably unavailable, so seek out any second or third printings that you can - this series is THAT good.