Every twelve years, a dozen assassins and killers take on the names of the zodiac. In a battle royale setting, they fight until there is only one survivor using any weapons or special abilities along with their wits and fighting styles. The winner and sole survivor is granted one wish with no limitation. This is the tale of the twelfth Zodiac War.
The story picks up following the death of Sheep, with a ranking of the remaining living six warriors. We get to follow Horse as he walks through the city and encounters Ox. Having witnessed Boar be reanimated and forced to fight as a zombie, he now seeks to kill all of the remaining fighters. Believing that if he can kill those left they won’t be defiled by Rabbit’s necromantic abilities. The fight is brief and inconclusive as Horse, being unable to use his incredible defensive abilities, flees.
Barricading himself into a bank vault, Horse surprisingly encounters Rat. We’re treated to a bit more of the Rat’s morbid train of thought, as he explains that he enjoys purposefully cracking his screen phone to make cool designs. Rat also casually drops that Monkey is already dead, although how he knows this, new comers to this story won’t know for a bit longer. While at the same time subtly laying in that doing nothing might as well be the same as being dead, that hiding was similar to a horse with a busted leg waiting to get shot. Rat soon leaves, although just how is a mystery as he just seems to blink out of existence with a warning that Snake might come to the vault looking for him. And that doing something might be a better idea than just hiding.
His advice comes a bit too late however. As Horse contemplates and comes to terms with his own cowardice at running he discovers that the bank is on fire. As it turns out, that pack on Snake’s back is a flamethrower and in a short time the bank and everything in it is burnt to cinders. It’s at this point, our third party observer proves a bit useful in that he explains Snake has the ability to sense vibrations in the ground through his feet. Explaining how, even though he’s lacking a head with all his sensory organs, Snake is able to still chase and fight other warriors. Snake only stays long enough for the short background and his relationship with his brother Dragon and how it’s rare for two warriors to be a team during this events and to have such trust. Noting that his only goal seems to be chasing after Rat, Snake instead runs into Tiger.
Snake and Tiger quickly come to blows, or more accurately bursts of flame and witty remarks. Until Tiger rushing through a burst of flame manages to steal Snake’s flamethrower…and then drink the contents. Giving her a substantial boost, Snake enters a fighting pose and…Tiger walks away. Coming to the realization that corpses don’t have blood for her to drink to get a better power boost, she decides it’s not worth the effort. Seeing that Snake was ordered to chase Rat and kill anyone that interferes with him, the guidance hits a contradiction since there wasn’t instructions for what to do if someone walked away from the fight. He doesn’t get stuck in this loop long though, before Ox appears and removes his remaining arm.
Tiger hadn’t gotten very far away of course, and Ox’s goal of killing every fighter by his own hands. It’s speculated that Tiger might have a personal vendetta against Ox explaining why she came back to fight arguably the strongest warrior. Only for their stand off to be interrupted by Snake’s dismembered arms grabbing both fighters by the neck. Dragon finally makes an appearance, from high in the air watching the two of them be slowly strangled. Meanwhile on the ground, Ox attempts to make a temporary alliance with Tiger sealing the deal by promising that he would challenge Tiger instead of the other way around. The only instruction he gives her is to keep vomiting.
Having freed themselves, Ox explains he learned how by coming across Horse’s corpse before hand. The fight isn’t over yet though, Snake’s body is still capable of continuing and stands off against the two of them. Meanwhile, Dragon continues to watch the fight, contemplating if he should use this time to kill Ox and Tiger while his undead brother distracts them. Only for his brother’s severed head to land in his arms. While the severed head of his brother attempts to gnaw his arm off, Dragon flashes back to his interactions with his brother. Including when he was killed by Rabbit before the start of the competition. Analyzing the situation, he decides the worst that will happen is the lose of his arm. At least until Monkey catapults Rabbit into the sky to attack Dragon directly. Slowly drifting down the two brothers join in a two on two fight with Ox and Tiger.
Until Rabbit returns from his erstwhile jump at any rate. Tiger and Ox are overwhelmed, only able to defend themselves against the relentless attacks from the three other warriors acting in perfect harmony with their attacks. Both skills of Tiger and Ox are pushed to their limits as the severed portions of the two brothers allow them to attack from multiple directions. Feeling himself taxed for the first time in years, Ox declares it’s time to use a fancy trick to win. Realizing that the weapon on Dragon’s back hasn’t been used even though Snake used his at every chance, they finally understand what they need to do. Cutting up the zombie brothers would only increase the number of opponents they need to fight their only other option was fire. Or to use the liquid nitrogen within Dragon’s weapon. The brothers undone finally and put to rest, the only remaining combatants finally square off for what can only be the closing bouts.
This volume had a little bit of trouble getting started. Having left off on somewhat of an awkward story position to lead into for this story. With Horse running from Ox followed by what felt like an eternity as Rat gave his perception of Horse and his choice to hide. Thankfully it didn’t last long, and quickly led back into some heavy action. By this point it’s been long enough that I actually can’t remember if the show revealed this much about Rat and his abilities, but reading the graphic novel after seeing the show definitely gives me a little more knowledge than I had before.
At this moment I think that this volume is my favorite of the four currently out now. The second half, more than making up for the slow start of the first half. And with the brothers dead, it certainly feels like the next volume is going to be the final one in this saga, so be sure to watch out for my review on that one.