By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
Last volume was sort of a low ebb for the Straw Hat Pirates, but this one's not particularly sparkling either. The entire city is out to get them, Galley-La is trying to kill them, and worst of all, Robin returns and it looks like the rumors about her being the assassin are true.
I had forgotten, when this volume first came out in Japan back in 2005, how much distrust still existed towards Robin in the fandom. There were a whole lot of people who were convinced that Oda had tricked us again, and that she was going to turn out to be one of the arc's Big Bads (Spoiler: she isn't). Admittedly, fandom was helped along in this by Oda himself, who does a very nice job of making Robin's motivations murky and suspicious. Zoro points out how she was first working against them, and tries to remain the voice of reason even as Luffy, Nami and Chopper want to believe in Robin.
The one exception to Oda making Robin looks bad and menacing is towards the end of the scene where she tells Sanji and Chopper she's leaving the crew, where she thanks them and notes that she doesn't deserve it. In my review of last volume I noted that most of Usopp's issues stem from his low self-worth. Let's just say that in the Straw Hat crew, Usopp runs a very faint Number Two behind Robin in the 'self-hatred' category. We'll see a lot more of this in future volumes.
(Speaking of which, I felt so bad for Usopp when I saw the character list at the start of the volume! Poor guy, he's not even listed as part of the crew now. (Robin will also change starting with 37, but she just gets greyed out, not moved entirely.)
Much of this volume is devoted to action and intrigue, and we get several cool-looking fights. The Straw Hats are generally not very good at convincing Galley-La of their innocence, and their attempts to get in to see the wounded Iceberg are confounded by another secret group, which Robin is a part of, attempting to do the same thing.
It has to be said that the secret identities of CP9 are not particularly surprising, but then they weren't meant to be. We only knew the group was around for about 3 chapters before they appeared, and the big surprise is that they *are* secret identities, rather than four different people that we'd never seen before who happen to work for the government. (That said, the reveal is really well handled, especially seeing the pigeon just going 'coo coo' while Lucci does all the talking.)
And we get a big old cliffhanger as well, as the confrontation between CP9 and Iceberg is interrupted on one side by Luffy and Paulie busting through a wall, and on the other by Zoro, Nami and Chopper entering, more sensibly, through a door. Well, OK, they entered by breaking the door down. Slightly more sensibly. What will happen next? Stay tuned!