Black Badge Volume Two ended with one hell of a shock, a surprisingly unsentimental move on Matt Kindt’s part, although consistent with the consequences of forcing adult responsibilities on children in this series about scouts as spies and assassins. Kindt doesn’t follow up on that immediately, though, preferring to look back to a Black Badge mission in East Berlin in 1985, then following up with a homage to The Prisoner.

Given what’s happened to them, and the hints they’ve been given, Cliff, Kenny and Mitz have begun to suspect the Black Badge organisation isn’t the noble calling they’ve been led to believe. However, with all the layers of deception and misinformation they’ve encountered, how can they be sure they’ve deduced the truth? It’s no real spoiler to reveal they have.

However, with everything out in the open, Kindt has really said everything he has to say, and much of this conclusion is just going through the motions. Sentimentality does manifest, and all is well with the world. Getting to the ending means there’s only one really big surprise, and the shock value and humour has been lost. Even the plain weirdness of it all has evaporated, and shipping in homages to other properties seems to underline that, never mind the narrative purpose as a bridge to further understanding.

As in the other volumes, there are places where Tyler Jenkins’ art looks smudgy and murky, which could be considered right for a dark and devious world, but that would be making excuses, and the most impressive looking pages of art are in the final chapter where he reverts to watercolours. Strangely, though it’s on the least effective chapter overall, Kindt marking time with an epilogue.

Anyone who’s invested enough in the cast will be pleased at the outcome, but this is the weakest of the three Black Badge volumes.