It is probably best to face the controversial issue in this volume right up front. The previous installment finished with little Guts as in a precarious situation. And as expected, the soldier that paid Gambino, the boy's stepfather and "protector", for a night with Guts, achieves his goal in a vicious manner. The scenes in the manga are clear and vividly disturbing, but I think that given the nature of this series it is reasonable to go this route instead of excluding the scene and only mentioning it. This brutal act is a key piece in understanding Guts, his distrust of other people and the hate and darkness he carries inside. At this point, I am fully aware that events of this nature are likely to show up again in this series, I accept it and it is not going to detract from my enjoyment of it.
On a different note, I found that this volume contained a considerably larger amount of dialogue and the absence of demons (if you discount Griffith) gives it the felling of a more typical story in medieval times. The volume follows Guts through his childhood and life as a mercenary. Maybe even more importantly, we witness the moment in which Guts meets Griffith and his Hawks, including the mighty female warrior Casca. Guts confrontations with Griffith are some of the best I have ever seen.
I have commented in my reviews of previous volumes about how detailed and vivid the graphics on this series are. In this case, I believe that the graphics were taken up a notch, or maybe it is because the nature of the story calls for more light, and therefore the details are easier to observe. The storyline is still fascinating and as I mentioned before violence and gore are present as usual. It is amazing how someone can create characters with such depth using images and sparse words; hats off to Kentaro Miura!