I was a fan of Kishiro Yukito’s original Battle Angel Alita, which I finished at about the time the omnibus edition of the sequel, Battle Angel Alita: Last Order began, but I fell behind on the Last Order release for a long time. However, I figured there’s no better time to knock out a few graphic novels in a row than when you’re supposed to read seventy-five books in a year and it’s September and you’ve only got forty-three.
Anyway, as much as I liked the original, I’m not a big fan of this one, and during the fourth omnibus volume, which is entirely taken up by extremely long backstory material, considered dropping it. It’s not a bad comic, really. The art is still solid, the action is still very enjoyable, and I like most of the characters. However, Kishiro is very self-indulgent now. So, he’ll do things like switching to a cartoony, almost chibi art style in the middle of an otherwise serious scene, give Alita a cat’s tail for no reason that I can discern, and though the original had plenty of over-the-top character designs and some silly moments, he really takes these up to eleven in these volumes. These things can be enjoyable in small doses, but it can give a reader whiplash as we move from one mood to another, often in between panels, and as a result the whole thing is much less coherent than the original. It seems like he needed his editor to rein in some of these ideas to make a more consistent product.
There are a few other problems, but they’re difficult to discuss without giving away too many spoilers. Two major characters are killed off-screen, for example, but only one of the other characters ever mentions this and no one seems particularly bothered by it. One of the most notable features of the world of Alita is the violence and casual cruelty, but in the first comic there was some gravity attached at least to deaths of main characters that Alita interacted with, so the violence actually had some effect on the audience. Here, it’s just something that happens, like the two were just inconvenient to the story so Kishiro just wrote them out.
In any case, I’d highly recommend the original Alita to anyone interested in graphic novels, assuming one has a high tolerance for violence. Last Order is probably worth reading if you’re a big Alita fan, but otherwise, unless it improves significantly in the second half, you’re probably going to be safe skipping this and just sticking to the original.…