Volume 10 of Hellsing arrived in the U.S. two weeks ago, and my copy was in with the rest of the stuff, and since I've discussed every other volume that's been released since I started this blog, might as well continue the tradition.
By the start of the volume, there are only a few players left on both sides, as all the faceless cannon fodder have been cleared from the deck. The Major, Lieutenant Dok, Warrant Officer Schroedinger, Walter, and the Captain on the bad guy side, with Alucard, Integra, Seras, Vernedead (well, the essence of him inside Seras), and Heinkel against them. Walter can't kill Alucard, because to accomplish that, he'd have to kill him once for every life Alucard's taken with his fangs, and that is a lot of freaking people. But it was never really the Major's plan for Walter to win, and the final stage of the plan is reached, and it seems to work. To the extent I understand the plan, it seems like a good one. Attacking Alucard directly, physically, is a waste, so they opt for this approach.
The villains die believing they were successful in their war, and so die happy. The volume ends by jumping three decades into the future to check in on the surviving cast. That part's a tone shift, more comedic, with Integra and Seras arguing over this and that. Hirano uses the more simplified art he favors when he's trying to be funny. The backgrounds are non-existent, speed lines, or goofy pictures, like little skull-n-crossbones, the figures tend towards huge, round faces, with vertical slits for eyes. It seems strange coming off all the death and violence from the preceding pages, but this is 30 years later, and Hirano has never had a problem with throwing in such sequences, especially when Seras is involved. He does tend to save them for times when the action's in a lull, so it fits in that sense.
I'll need to sit down and reread all 10 volumes at once to be sure, but I think the ending ties up most of the major, immediate issues of the series. There are still vampires, but none in such a concentrated threat as the Letztes Battalion. The Iscariot Organization is still around, but too weakened by the battle to try anything, for now. Seras seems more comfortable in her skin, and Integra's still full of fire and determination, but she recognizes the importance of spreading the responsibility, since she's mortal. Alucard seems closer to human than he's been in centuries, which is something the story had suggested he was growing to miss in recent years. As endings go, it was solid.
- Until he came right out and said it, I hadn't realized the Major's target had always been Alucard. I figured he wanted to continue World War 2, and was just happy to have such an impressive opponent as Alucard standing in his way. But England, the Hellsing Organization, even Iscariot once they showed up, were incidental, amusing distractions from his true goal: destroying Alucard. Considering how many lives Alucard has, one probably couldn't focus on anything else but him, if they were to win.
- The Major talks about how he doesn't approve of Alucard, this monster who keeps himself going by drawing life from others, and so for him, it wasn't just about the opportunity to wage a great war, but to destroy something whose existence offends him. Yet the Major was fine with using beings created to surpass Alucard (though they failed at that) to achieve his goal. Which may be why he ultimately failed. Alucard and Integra both insisted only humans can destroy monsters, because only humans can become obsessed with winning. I'd question whether an obsession with winning can overcome the drive to survive I'd imagine monsters have (if a vampire had no drive to live, they'd simply stop drinking blood and go sit in front of the sun, wouldn't they?), but maybe the difference is in how one looks at it. An obsession with winning may just be "need to survive" in different clothes. If they lose, the monster will kill them, so they can't lose, so they must win.
- The catch being, such an obsession can make a human a monster. Father Anderson became the monster he thought he needed to be to defeat Alucard, and failed. Integra says the Major's done the same, though the Major insists regardless of his form he's still human. I think Integra's right, Alucard is likely as much a human as the Major was by the end, but they're different situations. Actually, the reveal of the Major's circumstances surprised me, as I hadn't felt that level of technology had really been hinted at. Then again, it may have been child's play compared to what they managed with Walter.
- Hirano's art is not always easy to follow as usual. There's plenty of movement to it, too much sometimes. On the second read-through it was more clear what was happening, but he really adds too much shrapnel or explosions, or too many motion lines, to the point it becomes a mess. At one point, Vernedead (Wikipedia says it's Bernadette, but all my volumes disagree, so whatever) kills a werewolf with a silver tooth. When he first grasps it, he seems to be using his left hand, but then he jams it into said werewolf with what appears to be his right, except the hand and arm seem to be coming from the left side of his body. What's happening in the scene is still clear, just off. On the plus side, Hirano draws some excellent violence (the amount of blood is a bit ridiculous, but it's at least consistent throughout), can often harness all the energy in the panel and use it to draw your eye around the page, and his faces don't lack for expression. Not just over-the-top expression, either. He draws a good creepy, yet understated smile, and certain characters get such serene looks (usually representing acceptance of their fate), I felt terribly sad for them, even if they were villains. I would have thought after 30 years Seras would have followed Integra's example and started wearing pants, rather than that ridiculous skirt, but no such luck.