From the leering equine on its cover, Garth Ennis’ A Train Called Love #2 quickly fools you into thinking that it’ll be a blackly comic exercise in disturbing smut, which in fairness was one possible direction indicated by the series’ first issue. Just a few pages in, however, and it becomes apparent that Ennis is aiming for something much more sophisticated here, albeit with a smattering of his trademark taboo-busting.
As Myles and Valerie continue to fight for their lives against German assassins, a very different sort of crisis is unfolding in the relationship of Marv and Penny, due to the former’s ‘niche’ taste in pornography. Trying to distract himself from the subsequent woes in his home life, Marv explains an elaborate scheme cooked up by Jev, Chip and himself to their anxious friend Mike, whose role in the operation might force him to come clean about his exaggerated personal history. Meanwhile, Myles promises to explain to Valerie what he’s really up to, and why two bloodthirsty stereotypes are currently gunning for them.
For all the bawdy antics of the first issue, Ennis is beginning to show a real maturity with the interlinking storylines of A Train Called Love #2 – at least for the most part. Myles and Valerie’s sex-filled spy romp is kind of the odd one out among the series’ story threads, the rest of which have thus far focused on the awkward imperfections inherent to long-standing relationships between friends and lovers. It’s proving to be a sophisticated piece of storytelling, despite the horse porn.
The interesting thing is where Ennis plans to take these characters and their respective plot-lines. The jarring inclusion of a larger-than-life action adventure alongside a millennial comedy of errors suggests that the two are destined to intertwine, although how that might happen at present is unclear. Another possibility is that, while some of the stories in A Train Called Love #2 clearly take place in the same world, there’s room for a more abstract interpretation of how they might all be connected. It’s an engaging mystery, and along with Ennis’ more considered overall approach makes the issue a very interesting read.
Mark Dos Santos’ artwork continues to excel in conveying that sense of knowing fun so intrinsic to A Train Called Love #2, and although some panels look like a bit of a rushed job, his enviable ability to dart from kinetic energy to quiet introspection as required remains undiminished. His pages effortlessly brighten up what on paper should be a rather banal, if slightly surreal, story of relationships. The fact that the last few pages of A Train Called Love #2 leave you desperate to find out what happens next is a testament to Ennis’ skill as a writer and his newfound subtlety.