Friday, August 21, 2009

Alita Returns in October

The 12th installment of what’s being called in the United States Battle Angel Alita: Last Order will be out in October. If you’ve not been following Yukito Kishiro’s decades-long story of Gally (renamed, by some marketing person, no doubt, as Alita for English editions), which started in the Gunnm series, you’re missing one of the most breath-taking stories ever — in sequential art, in graphic novels, in all story-telling.

Gunnm (pronounced “gun-moo,” Japanese for “little gun”) concerns Gally/Alita, a female cyborg found in a trash heap and brought back to life by Doc Ido. As Gally grows up, and slowly discovers more about her super powers, her own questionable past as well as her purpose, she meets, loves and fights all manner of good and evil. But no enemy is truly all bad, and no ally is completely trustworthy.

The drawing is exquisite — the men are handsome and comic-looking, the women can be gorgeous and grotesque; tableaus are beautiful in their peace, shocking in their violence. Oh, have no doubt: Kishiro’s future world is filled with carnage, both in its sports, in which Gally ultimately becomes a participant, and its squalid everyday affairs. Lots of characters die, and almost always messily. Shot, blown up, chopped into pieces, crushed, smooshed against walls, dropped from tall buildings. Life here isn’t ever safe for anyone.

And yet the stories can be funny and at other times so touching as to break your heart. In Angel’s Ascension, arch nemesis Professor Desty (note: not “Destiny,” but close) Nova tricks Gally by entering her dreams, where he weaves a long fiction in which the two are devoted friends. He succeeds in fooling the young girl into being unaware of her own powers, but in one scene we realize he has trapped himself, as well: The two are sitting on a rooftop, watching the skyline and blowing soap bubbles, when Gally casually asks if he’s ever been in love. Nova thinks about it. “If one can truly believe in happiness, one can only have this prayer,” he ultimately replies, putting a protective arm across her shoulder. “Let this moment last forever.” Wonderful stuff.

Kishiro finished the Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita stories in the 1990s and had moved on to other ideas. But he was pulled back to Gally and, instead of picking up the tale where he’d left off, he started a new storyline, branching off the main Gunnm story just shy of its (I think) marvelous conclusion. With the Last Order series, he is creating a new ending for Gally and her friends and enemies, as well as a new destiny — not just for her but for all humankind.

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