The first two Oblivion Song paperbacks combined for an almost complete story about how a dimensional doorway opened in Philadelphia, transferring inhabitants in both directions, with some humans remaining where they are ten years later, having built a community. The mystery pulling readers from Chapter Two to Chapter Three is the Faceless Ones, believed to be a myth by the humans still in the other dimension. Anyone who’s read the earlier story knows that’s not the case.

While some of the background and character development will be missing, it’s possible to pick up Oblivion Song with Chapter Three and more or less experience a new story. Robert Kirkman jumps forward three years, during which there’s been considerable change for a lot of the main cast, and to the situation. Communication between Earth and the other-dimensional community is regular, and Nathan Cole’s former colleagues have extrapolated new medicines from alien discoveries, which has solved all funding problems.

The opening two books were an almost non-stop action rush with pieces dropping into place almost randomly. Kirkman formulates this arc as he did his Walking Dead books, by taking a leisurely stroll around the cast and updating them while keeping the terror in the background, but letting readers know it’s always there. Brothers Nathan and Ed Cole remain the lead characters, but now amid an ensemble cast that reframes opinions for some people.

There’s a great symbiosis between artist Lorenzo De Felici and colourist Annalisa Leoni. In the previous books the colour was toned down, but here the world of the Faceless Men is often seen in vivid pink and blue, while Earth has also become brighter. De Felici’s design skills are again something to see as he comes up with new creatures and new technology, sometimes both in the same package. Also of note is a spread echoing a scene from Chapter Two, yet showing how much expansion there’s been in three years.

For all the introduction of dangerous new foes, Chapter Three doesn’t have the same energy or intensity as the earlier outings, and unusually for Kirkman, the end point is neither greatly surprising nor shocking. Overall the balance between set-up and reveal lacks pace, although as it’s only the halfway point a sparkling Chapter Four may yet cast a new light on these events. Alternatively both are combined as the hardback Oblivion Song Book Two.