In many ways this volume is a story of uneasy alliances. Gwendolyn and Lying Cat are desperate to find a cure for The Will, while Marko makes an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children, who are trapped on a strange world with terrifying new enemies. The kidnapper of Robot IV’s child realizes that the revolutionaries with whom he has made an alliance cannot be trusted. In the end there are several deaths. Marko and Alana are reunited, but their child Hazel is still at large–and she drops plenty of hints that it will be years before there will be a full family reunion. So some story lines are unified here, but there are others that appear to be going their own way long-term.
When Neil Gaiman created the Dead Boy Detectives in The Sandman I doubt he had any idea of the legs the concept would have. There are two other projects in print featuring them–plus the first volume of this series and the Sandman collection in which they first appeared. Litt and Buckingham’s series has the distinction of creating several memorable new characters–notably Crystal Palace and her celebrity artist parents–as well as a ghost realm, the main focus of this final story arc. It’s nicely resolved, and Charles leans a lot about his family as well. The final issue, “Yonda,” has a Game Over image on the cover, which implies that it may have been a rush job. There’s a bit of resolution for Crystal’s school friend Hana, and in the end there’s a new detective agency formed: Rowland, Crystal & Paine: No Case Too Weird. A pretty good wrap up, but it’s disappointing that a fresh pair of finishers was brought in for the art. They did a good job, but it’s visually confusing to have the final issue look different from the final arc preceding it.
The Second Cycle starts here, in 1965 (with some earlier flashbacks). Issues 1-4 find Pearl and Skinner Sweet fighting an ancient vampire, perhaps the oldest of all. Pearl had been providing sanctuary for young vampires on the run, and has been helping figure out the various vampire lines. This ancient vampire race comes as a surprise, with previously unseen powers. Even Skinner is taken aback, and he definitely does not scare easily. His experience of this new power suggests an area deep underground, which looks like Hell itself. And the end of the fourth issue shows him with a possible infection. This new ancient vampire threat looks uncomfortably like the ultimate Big Bad, the sort of world-destroying threat that could end the series. It’s a bit disappointing to see Snyder headed down that road. But knowing that a Third Cycle has been announced, I have to think that he finds a creative way out of the corner he seems to have painted himself into. The fifth and final issue here is “The Miner’s Journal.” It switches between 1954 (where a researcher from the Vassals of the Morningstar is tracking down clues found in an old journal) and 1850, the year of the events in Nevada recounted in the journal. There are whole pages from the journal, reproduced with handwriting and illustrations, alternating with bookkeeper Gene Bunting’s search. New artist Matias Bergara has very little action to illustrate until the end, but does an effective job. His style is quite compatible with Albuquerque’s.
The climactic event in Vol. 1 was Lucifer’s death. Super-fan Laura Wilson is the main focus of this volume. She’s trying to solve the mystery of who murdered Luci, coping with the hole it left in her life, and dealing with the disappearance of the god-like powers she briefly possessed after Luci’s death. She’s about to get out of the god’s orbit, but is pulled back in when the god Inanna confides his insight into the murderers’ identities. They were fans, so Laura goes back into fandom: but she’s a celebrity now. In addition to Inanna, she interacts with the gods Baal and Baphomet quite a bit. Cassandra gets elevated to godhood: the first big surprise. Baphomet commits a murder: second big surprise. But what happens to Laura at the end is a mind-blower.