The first volume of D.Gray-Man failed to live up top the hype for me, but had enough going for it to make me want to give volume 2 a go. Thankfully that decision was a good one.
Allen Walker has been accepted into the
Black Order after the events of the first volume, and is now a fully-fledged
exorcist. He may still be getting used to life in the Order, but it's not
long before he clashes with one of his fellow exorcists, the arrogant Kanda.
Kanda believes that sacrifices are a necessary part of the quest for Innocence
and has no time for sentiment from his fellows, so to say that him and the
sentimental Allen don't get along is an understatement. However, they soon
have to put their differences aside when Komui sends them on a mission together
to recover an Innocence from the ruined city of Mater. Rumours persist of
a ghost in the city, and the Finders - an advance troupe whose role is to track
down Innocence - believe that the ghost is a doll powered by an Innocence.
Somewhat predictably however, Allen and Kanda aren't the only ones trying to get
it. The Millennium Earl has dispatched a force of Akuma to Mater to try
and capture the Innocence first, and one of them is a bit more of a threat than
the ones Allen has previously faced. The odds are against them, can Allen
and Kanda settle their differences and take the Innocence before their enemies?
The first volume wasn't too bad but suffered a bit from a few moments of unnecessary comedy and some bizarre ideas. This volume focuses pretty much on a single story and dispenses with a lot of the stupidity, and it's much better because of it.
The story about the ghost of Mater is quite creepy in places, but it also manages to convey some decent drama and end in quite a touching way, whilst still delivering a shedload of action. For the first time Allen is pitted against a Level 2 Akuma, and it's a bit more of a challenge than the Level 1 ones he dispatched for a pastime in the first volume. Not only does it have some impressive powers but it also is quite intelligent, and proves more than a match for our hero. This level of challenge for the main character means that it's more than just a 'find enemy, kill enemy' scenario, it brings an extra level of tension and uncertainty to proceedings that makes it far more engrossing than the first volume. The action flies thick and fast, and the antagonistic relationship between Allen and Kanda makes things even more interesting, but what I liked was that the series shows signs of finding its own style.
There wasn't too much that set D.Gray-Man apart from its peers in the first volume, but in this one it has a bit more. The scenes between the Ghost of Mater and its owner,
particularly their first meeting on the ruined streets of the city, show signs of a visual flair and the poignant final scene is also a cut above the norm. There's a kind of almost Nightmare Before Christmas influence to some of the design, but with a manga twist. It looks better than ever and the visuals and setting is starting to give the series its own identity. The characterisation is pretty good and there are hints towards some interesting future subplots, but best of all it creates a tense and exciting story that really holds your attention.
This second volume turns the series from average to good. There are some things that could be done better, for example Kanda is a bit too over-the-top arrogant and Komui is still a bit of a weak character, but overall this is a big improvement on volume 1. D.Gray-Man vol 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable manga that is well worth checking out, and a great example of why you should always check out the second volume of a series even if you weren't blown away by the first one.
Good stuff once again, short profiles of Kanda, Reever and Jerry are joined by a short comedy four panel manga about the Millennium Earl and pages asking readers to send in artwork and letters. There's also a (very easy) spot the hidden character game, and the usual next volume preview and adverts.