This Week's Speech Bubble Burst features two works that could hardly be more different in style and tone. For the weekly single issue review, I'll be looking at Marvel's exuberant new Japanese-influenced Marvel Mangaverse: New Dawn #1, and the collected book is Rucka and Lieber's moodily excellent Whiteout.
Marvel Mangaverse: New Dawn #1
- Published by Marvel Comics, written and illustrated by Ben Dunn.
- £2.45 / $3.50
Firstly, a definition for the few who might be unclear what 'Manga' means. In comics terms, 'Manga' refers to the intensely stylised and idiomatic illustrations and layouts found in Japanese comics. Stereotypical examples of this style are the huge eyes and exaggerated proportions of characters in such cartoons and comics as Pokémon.
Manga (also used, as in this particular instance, as a generic term to describe Japanese comics) are extremely popular worldwide, not just in Japan. Based on this, it would seem to make sound business sense to produce comics that would appeal to this enormous market, which is precisely what Marvel have decided to do. 'Marvel Mangaverse' is a line of comics based on the central (and rather gimmicky) premise of reimagining their key stories, characters and franchises in a Manga style.
New Dawn is the first one out of the blocks, and it's a pretty exciting comic. It reads something like a comic-book version of the Final Fantasy series, down to the slightly unconvincing dialogue and the massive cast of ridiculously over-the-top characters. Particular gems are the Incredible Hulk reimagined as a Godzilla-esque behemoth, and the Iron Man suit as a huge Power Rangers-style giant robot.
However, although the writing is nicely brisk and energetic and the art and colouring are sumptuous, this comic rather misses its target. The readers who would get most of the references and clever touches in this reinvention are those already familiar with the conventions of both Manga and Marvel Comics. This group of readers would most likely be picking this book up anyway, so it remains to be seen how much this stylish affectation will alter the sales figures.
Personally, I'm not sure this affectation is entirely satisfactory either. To those familiar with the more arcane stylistic touches involved with Manga and American comics, New Dawn comes across as a extremely well done imitation of the Manga style - somehow it doesn't seem entirely genuine.
New Dawn is definitely a very fun comic, and younger readers will especially enjoy the frenetic pace, glossy visuals and general thrills-n-spills, at the expense of any real characterisation or complicated plotting which might keep the adults interested for any length of time. Just because this is Manga, and thus tarred with the same brush as Pokémon and so forth, it doesn't mean that New Dawn should be quite as juvenile as it seems to be. However, it would be churlish to say that this is not an enjoyable book overall.
- Published by Oni Press, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber.
- £8.50 / $11.95
Whiteout is, by comics standards, a fantastic book. Scripted by Greg Rucka (who wrote Batman: The Ten Cent Adventure, which I reviewed a few weeks ago), it is a gripping thriller about murder, intrigue and the extreme cold. It is set around the scientific outposts on Antarctica, and the main character, Marshal Carrie Stetko, is called in when a body is found out on the ice.
Steve Lieber's bleak and frosty black and white art suits the nature of the story perfectly, and unusually for a comic, there is a real sense of tension as Stetko attempts to unravel the gripping plot behind the homicide.
Fans of such films as Fargo and Ice Station Zebra would love this book, as it features that particular sense of an isolated community struggling to police itself, and survive in the face of the extremely hostile environmental conditions. Stetko makes a tough and compelling protagonist, much like Frances McDormand's character in Fargo, and the grim humour of being stuck miles from civilisation with men far outnumbering the women echoes the film's own bleak but quirky jokes.
Collected from the individual issues and published by the superlative Oni Press, this book is a steal at its price, and is a must-read for comics fans and novices alike. From the Frank Miller exterior cover art to the reproduced individual issue covers inside (by the likes of Matt Wagner and Dave Gibbons), this book oozes quality.
What To Look Out For This Week:
- Catwoman #3 - The third part of a fresh and lively take on a slinky superheroine
- Howard The Duck #1 - Forget the awful film, this is a new version of a classic 1970s and 80s comic character. For Mature Readers
- The Ochlocrat - a beautiful and clever futuristic tale of vigilantes and violence