Manga Friday: The New Number Two
I haven’t done a week of jumping-into-the-middle in a while, so I thought it was about time to try that out again. This time, I have three books from Yen Press, all second volumes in series that I haven’t read before. So let’s see if they make any sense to me…
Goong, Vol. 2
By Park SoHee
Yen Press, July 2008, $10.99
Goong is an alternate history series, in which the last Emperor of Korea (Soon-Jong) wasn’t actually the last Emperor, and that Korea got its independence from Japan (as it actually did) and stayed unified (as, of course, it hasn’t). Park has a short comics afterword in this volume to explain the set-up – and something of why she chose to make the royal family in her series Kings rather than Emperors.
That’s the background: Korea is unified, and has a King. That king has a disinterested, self-centered teenage son, Prince Shin. And, in the way of royal families through the ages, Shin had an arranged marriage to a teenage girl, Chae-Kyung (our viewpoint character). Their marriage takes place at the very beginning of this book – we know that Shin and Chae-Kyung don’t love each other, and barely know each other, but we don’t see (in this volume) all of the machinations that led to the wedding. (Presumably, though, it has something to do with the fact that Chae-Kyung’s family is poor.)
Chae-Kyung has somewhat more interior life than the usual run of girls’ manga heroines, and Shin isn’t the standard spoiled brat, but something more nuanced. So Goong has a lot of generic elements, but assembles them into something more substantial and interesting. I’m also finding that Korean comics have less of the over-exaggeration of Japanese comics, which works better for my eye. Goong might not be groundbreaking, but it’s quite good for what it is.
Forest of Gray City, Vol. 2
By Uhm JungHyum
Yen Press, August 2008, $10.99
Now this book read like a first volume, though apparently it starts with a big flashback. Bum-Moo is a young man who dropped out of high school after a series of events – his widowed mother married a man with a daughter a little older than him, and then his mother and stepfather died in a car crash, and then his stepsister got married (very young) to a man who didn’t like Bum-Moo at all. Bum-Moo then moved out on his own, dropping out of school, and falling out of touch with his stepsister (who, as far as I can tell, isn’t named in this volume).
Bum-Moo is now living platonically with a female roommate, Yun-Ook, who he’s secretly in love with. Well, not all that secretly, actually: he seems to have poured out his heart to her at the end of the first volume.
And now – back to the present day of the series – the unnamed stepsister is staying with Bum-Moo and Yun-Ook while she divorces her nasty husband. (Bum-Moo tries to confront the husband, but doesn’t come out all that well.)
This is poised to turn into a romance, or maybe a romantic triangle, but it hasn’t quite solidified yet – it’s taking its time to get everyone into position. What’s here is fine, but it fells like this is still backstory – the real story hasn’t started yet.
(And I don’t have any idea what the title means, either.)
Legend, Vol. 2
By Kara & Woo SuuJung
Yen Press, May 2008, $10.99
I think that this is a series about two people – a young man, No-Ah, and a young woman traveling with him, Eun-Gyo – who are on some sort of mission to gather magical Plot Coupons, after which something else will happen. (It’s a bit vague, but there’s clearly something called the Seven Blade Sword, which is going to be reformed as this series goes on.) It’s all taking place in a medievalish realm with swords and guardian spirits, plus the usual mysterious unexplained people (probably evil), who show up for a page here and there, talk about things that don’t get explained, and then leave.
The first story here seems to be about a princess, Nak-Rang, who is held hostage or something, in a village where everyone has been children for some undetermined length of time. But Nak-Rang is left behind when the plot leaves her village (after solving her problem), so she’s not as important as she seems in the first fifty pages. (Her antagonist, the seemingly evil Ho-Dong, is more important, but not in the way you’d expect.)
This volume of Legend doesn’t entirely make sense on its own; I’m pretty sure that the first book had some sort of explanation for all of this stuff, and that explanation isn’t something that’s clear from context. This looks like a decent fantasy story, but don’t start with volume two.
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.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.