What a day. One minute Banya’s being chased by toothy sandworms that eat anything slightly more tasty than rocks, and the next he’s slathering himself in dragon droppings to keep from being sniffed out by yet another kind of monster. And then there’s this horde of black rats dripping fatal venom from their fangs, and that enclave of kill-crazy warrior monks, and …
Welcome back to the dog-eat-rat-eat-beast-eat-man world of Banya: The Explosive Deliveryman, which specifically ought to give a broad chuckle to anyone who actually walks a delivery route with a mailbag on their shoulder. Dealing with that testy old terrier that likes to fray your trouser cuffs doesn’t seem quite so bad when you’ve walked (or run, or staggered) a few hundred kilometers in Banya’s rather raggedy shoes. His job is to get your package to its appointed destination, even if what lies between you and it is like something out of one of those movies where various ragged tribes have gone to war over gasoline and canned goods.
In the first chapter of volume three (which actually lapsed over from the end of the last volume), Banya’s been pressed into service as a guide for three “Knights of Hohwe,” men on a mission to deliver a sacred scroll to a temple nestled right in the middle of one of the most godforsaken stretches of land imaginable. The knights don’t think much of Banya (and his big mouth), but they learn to listen to him when their camels get snacked on by a local contingent of sandworms. Worse, when they reach the temple, they find it’s been overrun by the Torren hordes — and the objective of Banya’s delivery is a monk who broke just about every precept in the book and is now socked away in the dungeon. But not for long, and the climax is right in line with the series’s patented mix of anarchic violence and broad comedy — as when Banya almost suffocates to death under the pendulous bosom of a colossal female Torren. (I’m tempted to say there’re worse ways to go, but this time I’m really not sure.)
The second story gives us Kong, Banya’s younger sidekick, himself a deliveryman-in-training, crossing paths with a runaway girl who wants to have herself delivered back to her parents. There’s a reason she’s on the lam from the authorities: she can work magic, and all people who exhibit such powers are summarily drafted into the government’s service whether they like it or not. Kong does his best to fend off the girl’s would-be captors — which include a hulking brute of a fellow who does vile things like tear off the heads of dogs and feast on them when he’s annoyed. Eventually Banya twigs to the fact that Kong’s gone AWOL, traces his steps, and backs into a savagely violent free-for-all that ends on a cliffhanger moment … one which also hints, however obliquely, at Banya’s past. It also hints at his increasing willingness to bend the rules and do what’s right, rather than what he’s just been contracted to do — but we’ll have to wait until next time to see how that pays off.
The pace hasn’t slowed one bit for this third volume, and unfortunately the cover price hasn’t dropped any either. But if you don’t mind the $13 per-volume admission fee, this series was and still is a wild, splashy ride, with tons of action and a premise that the author’s still gleefully mining for twists.