‘The March of the Crabs Volume 2: Empire of the Crabs’ - Hardcover Review

Turn it up.

There are certain cycles in human events, and how terrifying that a book that feels as though it’s rooted in World War II was written six years ago and can feel so utterly appropriate today.  There’s not much hiding the metaphor presented here: the dangers of groupthink and the putting down of individualism for the betterment of the state under the control of those who “know better.”  The dangers you face when you put your trust in foreign entities that may not have their best interests at heart when they manipulate you…it hits all too close to home right now, but it’s so earnestly told that even if it wasn’t such a good reflection of our world today, it would still be a kind of haunted joy to read.

We pick up where we left off in the last volume, right after Sunny’s big trick.  Once again, the story draws you in effortlessly. In fact, each time I pop back to check in on something while writing this, I end up reading several pages before jumping back to work.  The characterization of the intrepid, little crabs is endearing and will have you rooting for them easily, and the other roles just…fit.  The mix of humor within the plot is absolutely perfect, achieving a neutral buoyancy to keep the heaviness of the subject from pitching us into the deep. The same earnestness that permeates the work is the key to it.  It’s a veneer that reminds us that there can be laughter in crisis, that life will continue on with or without our permission. If we don’t see that glimpse of lightness every now and again, then how can we keep from going mad?

I think that the artwork takes a lot of weight off the tone, with things having a funky '70s feel that reminds me of a more G-rated Lupin III.  Add to that the stellar and highly evocative character designs and you have a recipe for instant connection to the audience.  Much like in Lord of the Rings, I appreciate that our protagonists are the smallest critters out there, with other creatures and all of the scenery dwarfing them completely.  It lends these little crabs a sense of plucky defiance - even when fighting among their own - that makes them the lovable underdogs that we all enjoy cheering for.  I think that the laid-back style provides the slight anesthetizing effect until the poo really hits the fan, and then lets us laugh in the aftermath again.

Like any good trilogy, this one ends on a bit of a bummer, so I’m eager for Archaia to bring the final chapter to us and continue this lovingly crafted tale.  There are artists where you can see the work they do, where every line is crafted in an incredibly stylized way. Every word of text is hyped and placed in important succession, and you can call it a masterpiece. Then, there are those whose work is so complete that you stop seeing the trees and just get the sensational forest.  This is one of the latter, and it’s one of my favorites.

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