The company of heroes destined to battle the immortal Mangleborn continues to assemble in a middle volume that blurs the line between the good guys and the bad further.
The theft of the titular lantern, which transforms people who see its light into monsters of diverse icky sorts, sends superstrong Archie in pursuit aboard a huge steam-powered robot captained by George Custer. Meanwhile, the vengeful search for those who massacred her home village leads young Seminole warrior Hachi to Marie Laveau’s New Orleans for battles with zombis, loas, and a gigantic Mangleborn serpent. Gratz sets his colorful yarn in an alternate “North Americas” made up of several countries (both colonial and indigenous) and populates the teeming supporting cast with both historical personages, like a windup Jesse James, and an array of tentacled horrors. He pitches his gathering band of Leaguers—grown by the end to five of the appointed seven—into a nonstop round of chases, flights, ambushes, narrow squeaks, and heroic feats. Struggling with his own dark origins as well as a tendency to bouts of irrational, wildly destructive rage worthy of the Incredible Hulk, Archie leads a vividly drawn and diverse ensemble. Helquist’s portraits of intrepid or menacing figures at the chapter heads signal the story’s shifts in focus.
Gratz has plenty of fun with his alternate history, but returning readers will notice that the dark is definitely rising. (map) (Fantasy/steampunk. 11-13)