Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 02

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 02 - Hiromu Arakawa 4.5 stars

As Edward and Al continue their quest to get their original bodies back, they encounter danger, and see how far a desperate alchemist will go to keep his license.

This volume broadens the examination of the dark side of alchemy and the theory of equivalent exchange. What is the life of young girl worth, when her father has run out of options in his research? When he does the unthinkable, Edward realizes how close to the edge of darkness he came during his efforts to perform forbidden alchemy. Does it matter that he only wanted to see his mother again? When you look at what he lost, his brother's body, as well as his arm and leg, for what he got, a lump of flesh that couldn't even be called human, the price seems steep indeed. The whole system is rigged to so that the truly power hungry are willing to sacrifice the unthinkable to bend the rules. Alchemy can do so much good, but in the hands of the wrong person, it can corrupt absolutely.

Envy, Lust, and Gluttony make another appearance, and we learn how evil than can be. They commit acts of violence without a thought, and because they are so powerful, they never even consider that there will be any consequences. They are so cold, and they don't hesitate to cause chaos and create havoc for the Elric brothers.

Scar makes his first appearance, and one of the main themes of the manga, that war is hell and makes good people do terrible things, is brought to the forefront. The survivor of a genocide, Scar is on a mission to kill as many alchemists as possible. Thinking himself a divine instrument of justice, he considers alchemists sinful because they change the natural into the unnatural. Considering that state alchemists and the Central government almost wiped out his people, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the guy, whether he's a nutjob or not. Or to sympathize with the state alchemists who were forced to slaughter men, women, and children because they were told to do so by their government.

I love how the series alternates between slapstick humor and serious, thought provoking issues of morality, ethics, and the value of a human life.