Manga Friday: Korean Road Trip!
The two books this week are actually manwha rather than manga, since they come from Korea and not Japan. Other than the reading direction, both of these books are more similar to their Japanese counterparts than to American comics, which I will demonstrate, viz:
Croquis Pop, Vol. 1
Story by KwangHyun Seo; Art by JinHo Ko
Yen Press, June 2008, $10.99
Da-Il is a young man who either wants to be a manwha artist more than anything in the world — because he told his now-dead mother that the only thing he wanted to do with his life was to make pictures that made her happy — or he fell into the job as a high school student because making comics "looked like fun." Or maybe both, since the story tells us both things and gives us no reason to disbelieve either of them.
Da-Il has just come to work for the manwha-ga Ho Go, who has just moved into a big house with his two other assistants, the punctilious senior assistant Ho-Suk Yang and the gorgeous and mysterious Hang-Chu. (Either in Korea in general, or just in this kind of manwha story, the staff of a particular story live with their boss.) But the hiring procedures are a bit lax, since Da-Il can barely draw.
Da-Il is incredibly outgoing and cheerful, in the very talkative way that only an Eastern comics protagonist can be. ("I mean, sure, the stories are all made up…but their emotions seem so real!" he burbles, to explain why he wants to be a manwha-ga.) And he’s also, unbeknownst to himself, a Croquer, who has the power to make his drawings come to life and to make "grudges" take form in the dead zones created by those stories. All this he is told by Mu-Huk, a ghost who appears as a badass version of Ho Go.
Oh, and Croquers inspire stories, so Ho Go’s new manwha series is about a Croquer who looks a lot like Da-Il and battles ghosts.
That all adds up to a standard comics setup: the hero is young and inexperienced, but has immense potential, and the world revolves around him. It’s still pulling into shape at the end of this volume, so it’s hard to be sure exactly what it will turn into. But it’s pretty good for what it is, so far, though Da-Il’s dialogue is much too much a lot of the time.
11th Cat Special
By Kim MiKyung
Yen Press, May 2008, $10.99
11th Cat is a series by Kim MiKyung, and I haven’t read it. But this book is a collection of short stories — odds and ends, I think, related to several of Ms. MiKyung’s series or standalones.
It opens with a four-page story called "Strawberry Children," which is suspect is related to some yaoi series: a little angel appears to two guys, and says it will give them their "heart desires"…which, of course, are utterly opposed to each other.
Next is the story that’s actually related to 11th Cat, called "Pieces from Nomi’s Past," and providing some backstory for the guy I assume is the main character of that story.
Then there’s "The Alien House," which reads like set-up — it might be the manwha equivalent of a pilot that was never picked up. A group of aliens live secretly on Earth, and the youngest of them is pretending to be a schoolgirl…and gets a human boyfriend (whom she’s not attracted to at all, because humans are icky — but her elders make her go along with it to learn more about humans).
A somewhat similar story, also with an alien invader, is the two-part "His Rebellion Against the Everyday: The Reason Why I’m Poor and Burdened," about a poor slacker young man who only wants to win the lottery but gets stuck babysitting a constantly-eating alien child for an extended period of time.
And "At the Library That Night…" also has a failed-pilot feeling, with three young men working in a haunted library coming to know and like the ghost of a young woman who died there.
"Where Is the Prince?" was MiKyung’s first published story, and it’s a small but solid morality tale about a medieval prince coming to accept his responsibilities.
Last is "The Price for Lifting a Curse: Silver Garden," which I found more than a little confusing. I won’t try to explain it, but it includes a consulting magician, a boy with a curse that turns his hand into a death touch, and some sulking guy who gets chucked off a cliff.
There are also some short notes on the stories on the Table of Contents page, and a very short preview of the Yen Press title Very! Very! Sweet.
It’s all drawn in a fairly standard shojo style (or whatever the Korean equivalent of that is) — it’s pleasant and readable, without the flights of weirdness that sub-genre sometimes gets into.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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