Last time, in SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 1, the Kilgannon family was torn apart by the vile scheming of Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan. Coheed and Cambria have been captured, but Claudio escaped off-world. Josephine and the infant twins have been killed. On the other side of the Keywork, the resistance faces the full might of the Red Army. So, basically, things aren’t looking great for anyone right now.

With the key characters now split up across space, SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 2 is less centralized than the first one. Personally, I think this change is for the better. The main goal of SSTB vol. 1 was to establish each character’s personality and motivations, so this time around there can be more action, twists, and development.

Immediately noticeable once you start volume 2 is the change in art style. The previous volume featured the work of artists Gus Vasquez (issues # 1 and 2) and Mike Miller (issues # 3-5). This time around, Gabriel Guzman is the main artist. Volume one’s art had this cool, Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe to it, but the aesthetic often clashed with the writing. Volume 2’s art is more traditionally realistic. It looks more professional, but it also lacks the unique style of the first one. Basically, both volumes have good art and I don’t think one is objectively better than the other. The new art style comes as a shock, but it’s the plot that draws you into SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 2.

A Journey Through the Keywork: A Primer on Claudio Sanchez and THE AMORY WARS

Issue 1

SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 2 begins with a return to the future timeline seen at the beginning of volume 1. Inferno flies through space, keeping the rebellion alive. The first caption in the issue provides the key to understanding this esoteric framing device: “It has been six years since the events that reconfigured The Keywork. Inferno, the Grail Arbor’s captain, hopes to revive the rebellion, and enact revenge on the one who killed those he loved.”

The previous framing device took place six years after the colonization of Silent Earth: 3. However, this event wasn’t really shown in the comic, so it didn’t really mean anything to the reader. This time, the narrator defines this timeline as taking place 6 years after the reconfiguration of the Keywork. For your first read through this is equally meaningless, but that wording literally foreshadows the end of the comic. It shouldn’t be this hard to understand the timeline of a comic, but it does feel rewarding to re-read and see the careful planning and build-up.


A Falling Angel and a Rising Tyrant

Back in the current timeline, we see Wilhelm Ryan working on his doomsday weapon and attending his personal council of political puppets. There’s two interesting things about the Council of the Eurocons: Ryan replaced the defeated Mages with humans loyal to him out of fear, and that even the smallest bit of back talk is severely punished. They may look important with their big fancy hats, but they are just more expendable pawns.

This scene is good at establishing Wilhelm Ryan’s network of power, but it also provides an important piece of foreshadowing for his grand plan. Ryan is committing genocide of alien sentients and using garbage ships to secretly transport prisoners. One of those ships was the one Claudio got on at the end of Volume 1. Wherever he’s going, its not gonna be pretty.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Meanwhile on the Prise homeworld, one of the angelic order, Ambellina, volunteers to shed her wings in order to travel the worlds of man. She must protect Claudio from Wilhelm Ryan. Ambellina begins her awesome character arc by burning off her wings and hair before heading to Hetricus.

It is unclear why she must lose her wings. My theory is that: (a) the Prise are always up their own asses and cant let one of their own consort with the lesser races and still represent them with the wings, or (b) in order to stay undercover, Ambellina had to remove her wings so she wouldn’t be seen. It could also just be a weird mix of the two.

This scene acts as a powerful foundation for one of the strongest heroes in the series. The reason Ambellina had to burn her wings and hair doesn’t matter — what does matter is her willingness to permanently exile herself from her people for the greater good. Without wasting any time, Ambellina heads to the Kilgannon home on Hetricus. There Claudio’s trail begins.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Elsewhere, Coheed and Cambria’s fight continues aboard the Gloria Vel Vessa. Admiral Crom’s battleship, The Notting Vezzer, maintains its tractor beam hold on the prisoner ship despite Inferno’s efforts to free it. The Darth Vader-esque admiral boards Coheed and Cambria’s ship in order to take them out personally.

Crom is the first character to appear that can challenge our heroes — his ability to drain the energy around him completely shuts down Coheed and Cambria’s powers. Without their special abilities, they are fully at the mercy of Wilhelm Ryan’s forces. Unlike the fights against red army soldiers, this time around the heroes are far outmatches. Crom’s ability to absorb energy ends up hard countering the Coheed’s energy blasts and Cambria’s psychic attacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan purposely gave Crom this special as a precaution against his nemeses.

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On the surface of the planet Dil-Ariuth, Mariah’s personal stronghold, the resistance falls to the Red Army blitzkrieg. However, Mariah must leave her people behind and escape off-world. She must reach Paris: Earth — the capital of Sector 12 and heart of the resistance. Deftinwolf and his forces landed there and are prepared to topple the planet with a show of merciless and indiscriminate violence. This will be Mariah’s last chance to stop Ryan’s plan before its too late.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

From the very first issue of volume 2, you can see an immediate jump in quality and tension. So much goes on, yet not a single page is unnecessary. Personally, I liked Ambellina’s spotlight in this issue the most — while she shines in the next arc, her origin definitely does her justice.

Claudio and Chondra talk the Future and THE AMORY WARS at NYCC 2017!

Issue 2

The next issue begins on Shylos Ten — the destination of the garbage ship Claudio hid away in. The narrator reveals that the green creatures on the ship are called Stars and are being sent to the horrific concentration camp Si-Revody. At first, the name Star for a race of people is weird and extremely confusing considering the meanings of “star” in English and in the story itself (stellar body, celebrity, and the home of the Prise). However, they are called that because they are being killed en masse to power Ryan’s doomsday machine. The Red Army is reducing them to a power source like the stars themselves.

This moniker has deep implications: the stars are a mere power source for Wilhelm Ryan, and still, he equates them with a race he is exterminating. This shows that he sees celestial bodies and his victims as one and the same — pawns to be sacrificed for his benefit. Obviously, the closest comparison to what’s going on here is the Holocaust.

The difference is nuanced — unlike the victims of the Nazis, the Stars deaths are being used for a literal utilitarian purpose rather than as a socio-political one. However, for both, the deaths of these victims fuels a fascist war machine. While I feel like that Claudio could perhaps have played up the severity of the genocide, personally as a Jew I’m fine with him using this kind of allusion, though I understand how someone could feel uncomfortable with the subject matter.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Fight to the end, Freedom Fighter

We then return to the battle on board the Gloria Vel Vessa. Coheed and Cambria’s attacks are doing nothing to Admiral Crom thanks to his energy dampening abilities. Inferno comes aboard with an explosive entrance in an IRO-Bot, but even with the KBI back together, they cannot defeat Crom and his cohorts. Back on Hetricus, Ambellina scares off the detectives in the Kilgannon house and introduces herself to Newo. She calls herself the Watcher and has come for the Son of Three (Claudio). Understandably, this is a little much for Newo to take in and she goes outside — where the Onstantine Priest waits in ambush.

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Newo, unfortunately, suffers from weaker writing than the rest of the cast. She’s honestly more of a plot device than a real character. She grounds Claudio in the realm of the mundane, but to keep her safe, he has to let go of his feelings of the past. She’s also a bit of an Aunt May — like Spider-Man, Claudio keeps her in the dark about his powers and role in the universe. Her dog, Apollo, is more of a character, but I ain’t even mad. Apollo is a good boy.

Finally, we get to see how Mariah is doing. She manages to escape off-world, but all of her companions die in the process. The rebellion has been crushed. Despite losing so much already, and carrying the belief that her love Inferno is dead, she presses on anyway. Her people have entrusted their fates to her. This act shows how much of a hero Mariah is faced with such overwhelming odds, most leaders would bend the knee to their enemy.

The council of Eurocons is a clear example of this. Mariah, however, is truly devoted to her cause and the liberation of her people. The mission goes above her own health and happiness. Her companions knew that as does she. As she approaches Paris: Earth, Inferno messages her on the comms. Thankfully he’s still alive, albeit dealing with a pipe sticking through his body. He is an IRO-Bot after all — it’ll take more than that to kill him.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Lastly, we get our first look at Claudio in Camp Si-Revody. He meets Cecil, a friendly Star who helps him get situated in the camp. He tells the story of the Hearshot Kid — a prisoner that attacked the guards in a final act of defiance. The Star was the one from the ship Claudio stowed away on.

It’s unclear how The Hearshot Kid became a legend so quickly, especially since he was killed on board the ship while everyone else was in isolation pods. Nevertheless, this legend circulates the camp, giving hope and strength to the prisoners there. Even though the Hearshot Kid died in the end, he fought back.

This issue acts as a calm before the storm — the pieces are finally all in place. Deftinwolf and his troops are all set up in Paris: Earth, Coheed, and Cambria are under his control, and Mariah is in place for one last chance to stop it all. At this point, Claudio’s arc starts to wind down. He’ll be on Shylos Ten until IN KEEPING SECRETS OF SILENT EARTH:3. The climax of Coheed and Cambria’s arc approaches.

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Issue 3

On Paris: Earth, Wilhelm Ryan’s plan is on the verge of absolute success. After Crom defeated Coheed and Cambria he brought them to the focal point of this savage gambit. After following them to the planet’s surface, Mariah has one final chance to stop the first domino from falling, but her aim fails her. Deftinwolf releases the killer dragonflies across the planet alongside all-out siege by the Red Army.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

Ironically, The Flies true mission was not to swarm the planet and annihilate the population — that was just a bonus. All they were really bred to do was to sting Coheed. That’s all. Filled with the Cache Serum, the dragonfly’s sting interacts with the Monstar Virus inside Coheed.

He transforms into The Monstar: a Doomsday-esque cyborg monstrosity. He kills Admiral Crom, which of course was a necessary sacrifice since everyone is just a pawn to Ryan. However, Coheed’s will is not his own. And in reaction to Coheed’s transformation, Cambria begins to transform as well. All according to plan.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

The Dominos of Destruction

Wilhelm Ryan has many irons in the fire and across space two of his Onstantine Priests begin their hunts. Ambellina protects Newo from the one while another rears its ugly head in Si-Revody. Claudio stands up to some abusive guards, then turning invisible to avoid detection. Its kind of hokey how he relates to the prisoners of the concentration camp by recalling getting bullied in high school, but his heart is in the right place. Claudio isn’t exactly being as discreet as he should be; as such, a hunter discovers him. Compared to the havoc that the transformed Coheed and Cambria will cause, however, the Priests seem small time.

Claudio’s character arc is one of my favorite aspects of the series. though you might be wondering why exactly. In SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE, he’s clearly not the main focus, his parents are. That doesn’t mean Claudio Kilgannon’s story isn’t engaging — his is the classic tale of a young man losing everything he holds dear and going out on his own to survive. Its tragic, but empowering. The struggles he faces in this comic will serve to create an extremely compelling foundation for the savior of Heaven’s Fence.

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Issue 4

The penultimate issue of SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE is my favorite of the series. This is where all the over-the-top theatrics really begin. The issue starts with Cambria fully transforming against her will into the White Ruineer. Its purpose is simple — destroy the Monstar, aka Coheed.

You might think it’s weird that Ryan didn’t attempt to separate them, but having them kill each other has always been part of his plan. While it does make it a bit trickier to handle them when they’re together, once the plan comes together the Monstar and the White Ruineer can cause more destruction than anything else. It also caters to Ryan’s desire to inflict as much cruelty on his enemies as possible, the sick bastard.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

The Monstar jumps out of orbit all the way to Star VII. After landing on the surprisingly solid ball of fire and gas, Monstar virus vapor flows from Coheed and extinguishes the star (which has a solid stone core for some reason). Viruses don’t work this way. Or stars. But this is Sanchez’s world and he can do what he wants with it — that’s rock’n’roll.

And besides, visually it’s really fucking cool. Just look at those two pages! Cambria as the White Ruineer chases the Monstar to the extinguished star. After she stabs the hulking beast in the heart, he transforms back into Coheed and perishes. His death triggers Cambria to revert back to normal, but in a Shakespearean show of grief, she falls on her blade in her last moments of lucidity.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

Together in Life and Death

So ends the lives of Coheed and Cambria, the titular characters of the band and the anti-heroes of this comic. It came as a surprise my first time going through it, but it feels right. SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE is about the tragic couple fighting back with all their might, and failing, against a villain that would use them as weapons for his grand scheme. They are unwitting pawns in a scheme that they had no real way of preventing, perhaps even if they saw it coming.

With Cambria’s death, her psychic energy releases from her body, reigniting the star and turning it into a sun with a massive gravitational pull. The planets surrounding the new sun start to revolve around it. However, the danger here is that with the Keywork weakened, all 78 other planets are in danger of roaming free, killing billions of people in the process.

I wasn’t lying when I told you Ryan’s plan was like a row of dominoes. But of course, that raises the question: why go through all the trouble? What does Ryan have to gain from killed billions? Well, that’s the brilliant part — his plan isn’t to kill everyone in Heaven’s Fence. It’s to get all of his enemies to die to stop that from happening. And when the dust settles, his rule over creation will be absolute. What are your thoughts on this plan? Tell me.

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Issue 5

And here we are in the final issue of SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 2. Wilhelm Ryan’s plan has gone off without a hitch so far. His Monstar gambit proved wildly successful. Paris: Earth and the Rebellion are no more, two of his most hated enemies are dead, and all of the Keywork is heading toward ultimate destruction. But what is an emperor with no one to rule? Wilhelm Ryan is far too rational and conniving for that. Rather he predicted an ultimate sacrifice that would destroy his last enemies.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

Seeing the efforts to stop the Monstar have failed, the Prise head for the sun. The Keywork keeping all together can’t maintain balance without Star VII. So the Prise sacrifices their physical forms to bind the gap with pure energy. They managed to avert total destruction, but that was all part of Ryan’s plan. Now the Prise no longer exist– the only enemies Wilhelm Ryan couldn’t defeat with outright force.

Everything else can be accomplished through mundane means — Ryan could have just laid siege to other planets since. The Rebellion was tough, but he had the bigger armies. The Prise are nigh invincible, and if he began outright war everywhere, the Prise would come in and stop him like in Paris: Earth. That’s why he needed them dead. Everything played right into his hands.

Blacking Out the Stars With Hatred for God and Man

I appreciate how flawlessly Ryan’s plan goes. You don’t often see stories completely dedicated to a villain’s intricate gambit that actually end in the heroes’ complete failure. To be fair, if this was truly the end of the series, I would be a little unsatisfied. However, knowing that this is only the first act of a longer space opera makes the ending fantastic. We’ve seen what Wilhelm Ryan is capable of, but not Claudio. When the boy becomes a man there will be a reckoning.

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The final issue also features the end of one character’s arc and the beginning of another. After Mariah misses her shot at Deftinwolf, he manages to sneak up behind her and slits her throat. Thus falls the last Mage, leaving Wilhelm Ryan the sole ruler of Heaven’s Fence. Mariah was an awesome character, through and through.

She’s both a Mage and a rebel leader — both other and familiar. I would have loved to see her stick around to the next arc, and she could’ve added a lot to the story, especially since Mariah and Claudio never get to meet, but still, her death was not in vain. She went down the way she lived — fighting for what she believed in.

As for Claudio, after an Onstantine priest attacks him (and, ironically, Claudio is saved by Red Army soldiers), Claudio gets kicked out by Cecil. Those two things are actually unrelated — Claudio just keeps rocking the boat, standing up to guards, stealing from them, and generally just making a scene. Clearly, Claudio has a good heart, but Cecil, Claudio’s only friend, fears the guards will punish the other prisoners in retaliation.

This scene really tugs at the heartstrings, but I have to side with Cecil on this one. Unlike Claudio, who has never been in that much danger with his defensive superpowers, the prisoners of Si-Revody will only suffer more if he messes around. The only thing Claudio can really do to help at this point is wait until he has the ability to liberate the entire camp. It has to be all or nothing. So he leaves and hides in the sewers of Shylos Ten, staying incognito until a certain fallen angel rouses him later IN KEEPING SECRETS OF SILENT EARTH:3.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

The only other loose end is Inferno, who managed to escape with his life and the remnants of the rebellion. On board the Grail Arbor, he spars with Ambellina in front of his crew. He has been dubbed the Prise Fighter Inferno — a reference to Claudio Sanchez’s acoustic/electronica solo project of the same name. Of course, it doesn’t actually make sense because the only Prise he’s fighting is Ambellina in a boxing ring. Nevertheless, the clipped angel appearance with Inferno shows that the resistance has a powerful new ally.

Even though Mariah is gone, the resistance refuses to fall. Inferno was still there to pick up the pieces, and now with Ambellina, they have another champion of their cause. It’s not made entirely clear when Ambellina meets up with them, but after leaving Newo behind on Hetricus, she sought out the remnants of the resistance in order to find and protect Claudio.

Final Thoughts on SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 2

SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE vol. 2 is one of those comics that only gets better every time you read it. In the course of writing these analyses, I’ve fallen in even deeper love with the series. It’s a comic that rewards careful reading. It has the hidden nuance that only reveals itself if you really pay attention.

Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan’s brilliant gambit is a perfect example of that. It was something I didn’t fully understand for a long time, but now that I do I have even more respect for Claudio Sanchez as a writer. THE AMORY WARS as a whole is incredibly imaginative work of science-fantasy that can stand side-by-side with the greats.

As fantastic as SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE is, the series only gets better with its next installment, IN KEEPING SECRETS OF SILENT EARTH: 3. The characterization gets much more in-depth and poignant, the art is more cohesive and vibrant, and the plot’s magnitude gets even greater. Look out for the next analysis on it in the coming weeks!

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