"I just don't see how you can go for that alien bullshit" - Pete
It's been ten years since the events that took place in Grey Oaks and the world is a different place. People with strange inexplicable red marks are being rounded up by Government agencies and there's a general paranoia over what the mark actually means. Jessie and her younger brother Alex are living under the radar in a remote area of Mexico, their only contact with the outside world is local bartender, the wonderfully realised Cass. When a stranger named Ron arrives from Jessie's past things are going to change.
Ron, Jessie, Alex, and Cass must find a Yaqui Indian, Don Candillo, in order to get some answers and to have any chance of survival. There's going to be a lot standing between our crew and their goal, including psychotic bikers, monsters, and a lack of salt water. Let's break it down and see if Justin Randall delivers on the promise held out by the first book.
Book 2 is pretty hard to review without giving away a whole bunch of spoilers as the book explains a lot of what went down in the first instalment. If you wanted an explanation for psychotic farm animals, apparent zombies, and cannibals, then the second instalment of Changing Ways will send that in your direction. One of the aspects of the first book, the shadow creatures that kind of look like giant amoebas, that I naturally missed in my review, become more important in the second book, and like Jessie we didn't decipher their purpose. That's about all I'm going to say on the actual plot, read the book to find your own answers, and yes my plot description above pretty much sucks as I wasn't able to delve too far into the nuances on offer. Hopefully I've pointed out enough to whet your reading appetite. Please note if this review makes zero sense then you'll have to dial into both the first book and my review to get up to speed, links below for purchase options friends and neighbours
Justin Randall pretty much had a hard job with getting Book 2 out to the faithful. The first book won awards, gained great reviews, and was pretty much universally liked. One wrong misstep with the second instalment and we're talking a tsunami of a backlash coming Randall's way. Thankfully the script lives up to the standard of the original and drives things in new directions, delivering thrills, spills, and surprises along the way. While I found the first book somewhat confusing, the answers come at you thick and fast in the second book, with for mine a stronger narrative flow that drives the Reader forward. I grooved to the plot in the first book, but with the hindsight gleaned from the second book am now really rocking out to the whole Changing Ways rhythm. Randall has his script on and if you dig comic book writing, which is of course a medium worthy of quite some respect, then you are really going to be in nirvana with this graphic novel.
What set's Justin Randall apart from the pack, and I include foreign comic writers here y'all, is his ability to hit the characterisation traits with rare insight and ability to create believable characters that somehow make the whole story factual. Okay it might not be happening in our current reality, but I could readily believe a parallel universe where the events of Changing Ways are going down right now. We're not talking characters who have some wonderful ability either, David Barrot for example is an average guy trying to live with tragedies from his past. Okay so with the mark comes a "power" but we're not talking leaping tall buildings here, both Jessie and Alex have new found abilities but this isn't going to help them enlist in the Sarah Connor army corp. Any number of Randall's characters have inherent personality flaws, it's how they progress with those flaws that keep things interesting for the Reader. No one is perfect, not even us online Reviewer types, Randall creates characters who reflect this rather than being some sort of perfect cypher of the idealised Nietzsche superman.
Drop your linen and start your grinning folks, Justin Randall continues the excellent narrative from book one, and this time with added explanation of what we are reading for those of us unable to draw inferences or turn discarded stones. One issue for mine, we're definitely getting out of zombie central, so no Changing Ways isn't just another shambling dead outing. With Book 2 Randall brings the apocalyptic vision, but just not in a way we might have expected. I for one am now fanging on getting the next book in my hands.
If you dug Randall's artwork in the panels of the first book then rest assure the boy hasn't given in to the temptation of rushing things to publication, we're still talking outstanding artwork in the second book as well. There's a sort of pastel feel to Randall's work that gives almost a surreal sepia look to the pages that will have the reader entranced. Not quite sure how to describe it folks, while we're talking pretty realistic renderings, there's something slightly otherworldly about the pages that simply drips atmosphere. If Somerset Maugham had of done comics he would have done stuff like Changing Ways, except without the supernatural elements probably. There's a home town quality to Randall's work that speaks of back roads, deeper currents, a whole different slant on reality. Guess another comparison would be to the artwork in use in Hayao Miyazaki's anime features. Take it from me, you are going to really dig the artwork.
I'm giving Changing Ways Book 2 a full recommendation, comic book fans and non-fans alike are really going to want to treat themselves and dial into this epic graphic novel. While I guess things are nudging into the Sci-Fi spectrum, there's still plenty to enthuse dark genre regulars in the book. If you have never dialled into Australian comics, then this might well be the place to start, albeit you'll need to score the first book to get why things are happening in book 2. North Americans can be safe in the knowledge that Changing Ways is set in the Home of the supposed Free.
[Editor's Note: The eagle eyed amongst readers will note this review was thanks to an advanced media release. Please don't ask for a copy as you won't be getting one].