In 1995 Yukito Kishiro concluded Battle Angel Alita. In 2001 he picked the series up again with Last Order, but in between he produced three shorter stories slotting into gaps during the original series, and in 2007 added another. Until Holy Night and Other Stories they’d never been officially published in English, and as such remained something of a holy grail for Alita fans.

As the original series took several lurches forward in time there were spaces to slot implants, and although ‘Hometown’ was the first drawn, Kodansha chose to sequence the stories chronologically rather than in the order they were created. This means we lead off with the three part title piece, with no Alita whatsoever. The focus is Daisuke Ido, the man who resurrected her from junked cyborg parts, already earning his income bounty hunting when he rescues a young girl from a robot monster around Christmas time. We spend two years with Ido and the girl he calls Carol, seeing Ido’s skills increase, but because we know Carol doesn’t appear in the later Alita stories a spirit of foreboding tension hangs over what becomes a very clever story.

Despite originally being serialised in two parts, ‘Sonic Finger’ is an unusually decompressed story for Kishiro, who usually prefers the faster paced Western form of storytelling, yet here has sequences such as Alita exercising over several pages. Nicely drawn, mind. This takes place in the period after Alita’s Motorball career in Volume 2 of the 2018 Kodansha editions or Angel of Victory in the original translations. Alita’s fame has attracted an assassin, and she’s lucky to survive her first encounter, but the assassin seems to be using a gun, which is illegal in the Scrapyard. The leisurely opening is balanced by the frenetic action of the concluding chapter.

The bizarrely designed Deckmen are multi-function robots who carry out a number of tasks in the Scrapyard factories, and by the time one has a solo in ‘Homecoming’ Alita is working as an agent for Zalem. As eccentrically designed background characters the Deckmen generated quite a following, and this is bittersweet, in fact a term that can be applied to all four stories to a greater or lesser degree.

Koyami plays a large part from the final stories of the original Alita series, and her solo was the last piece produced, almost ten years after the remainder, and slotting into the Last Order continuity. Koyami always championed Barjack Den and his revolution, so when rumours begin circulating that he’s returned, she has to know the truth. Kishiro applies a lesson Koyami’s told she must learn in a very surprising way, and then throws in another great twist.

A neat hardcover package is rounded off by Kishiro’s creation notes and his Alita timeline. Intended as stories to keep his hand in, such trivialities by other creators have rarely been creatively successful when largely lacking their core lead character. Kishiro’s good enough to buck that trend. Everything is magnificently illustrated, and despite the stories being connected to Alita and having greater depth if you’ve read that series, they all stand up well enough alone, so act as a good sampler for anyone not wanting to invest in the 2000 pages of Battle Angel Alita without reading something first. If you are willing to make that investment, this is collected along with the five hardbound Alita reissues in a slipcased box set.