Yukimura, Makoto. Planetes. Vol. 2.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2016.

The first volume, in which we met Hachi Hoshino, orbital garbage man, and the debris-collection crew of which he is a part, was an amazing combination of plot, narrative, characterization, philosophy, and nicely done, very clean art to support it all. The overarching theme there was the preparation for the seven-year exploratory voyage to Jupiter, and Hachi’s determination to be a part of it, no matter what.

That’s still the theme in the second half of the adventure, but Yukimura seems to have lost much of his control over the story. There’s a lot of backing-and-forthing this time, showing the early lives of Hachi and his father (who will be the chief engineer on the Jupiter mission), and the upbringing of Tanabe, who was a rookie astronaut in the first volume, and whom Hachi has now married (just before disappearing for seven years — right). It’s not always clear when these scene changes take place — a problem exacerbated by the fact that Yukimura also doesn’t draw his characters quite the same way as in Vol. 1, so you might have trouble recognizing who’s who.

There are also a number of not entirely relevant narrative threads involving “the Baron,” a human-looking character who claims to be an alien from the Galactic Union, and also Fee’s son back on Earth, who collects stray dogs and refuses to train them (on grounds of cruelty), and also Colonel Sanders, a Space Force officer with a white goatee.

And the Space Force is relevant because of the orbital mines controlled by various nations. When they hit something and detonate, the amount of new debris created is enormous (not even counting the loss of life). In fact, there’s a serious danger that the Kessler Syndrome will kick in — the effect of increased debris colliding with other debris, creating ever-greater amounts of ever-smaller particles, which threaten to shut off Earth’s access to space completely. (And, yes, that’s very much a real thing.) So the debris-scavenging ships become anti-war focal points — sort of. It’s never entirely clear what they expect to accomplish, though.

All in all, where Vol. 1 gets a solid ten out of ten as a graphic novel, the second volume is more like a six out of ten. And that’s a shame.

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