Comics Round-up 15.03.2013

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Shadowhawk, Bane of Kings, Bellarius and Lord of the Night welcome you to the second comics round-up for March.

“Unusually, its all graphic novels this month for the most part and once again, the experience has been across the spectrum. The shining lights this month have been DC’s Huntress and Green lantern.” ~Shadowhawk

The Death of the Family is one of the greatest Batman tales ever written, and Paul Cornell’s Wolverine gets off to a solid start.” ~Bane of Kings

“Probably the only comic in which you want to see more people and less fire breathing lizards.” ~Bellarius

Hirano’s latest work is everything we’ve come to associate him with. Immensely gory violence, over-the-top in a good way characters and absurdly hilarious moments that abruptly switch back to unrelenting carnage. What fan of his would have it any other way??” ~Lord of the Night

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Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk: Star Wars: Darth Maul – Death Sentence by Tom Taylor (Dark Horse), New 52: Huntress Vol.1 by Paul Levitz (DC Comics), Green Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns (DC Comics), and, Ravine TPB by Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic (Top Cow).

*****

Star Wars: Darth Maul – Death Sentence by Tom Taylor

Darth Maul Death Sentence

Darth Maul is one of my favourite characters from Star Wars lore, owing in large part to the fact that he is a heavily tattooed badass Sith who could have more than given Darth Vader a run for his credits, had the two ever gone up against each other. Actually that does happen in one of the post-Episode III comics that Dark Horse put out a few years back, and the comic was one of the best Star Wars comics I’ve read to date. Going into Death Sentence, I had a lot of expectations for the comic because of my love for the character and his entire backhistory. More so since this is a Clone Wars spin-off, and I happen to love that show too. Sadly, the comic failed to deliver on my expectations and I was left rather underwhelmed with the whole thing.

To be clear, it was the writing and not the art that robbed me of my enthusiasm and soured the reading experience. In a word, the story was entirely silly. Throughout, I had a tough time connecting with Darth Maul’s character, and with that of Savage Opress, his brother. The latter has been portrayed extremely in Clone Wars, at least till the season 3 issue when there’s a three-way fight between him, Count Dooku and Asajj Ventress. Tom Taylor has reduced the character to a cliched thug, and Darth Maul comes across as an average villain, rather than someone truly frightening. To be honest, it felt like Taylor just didn’t have a proper grasp on either character. More often than not, Darth Maul appeared to be little more than a mustache-twirling villain rather than the big bad Sith Apprentice who has killed several Jedi in his time and went up against Master Qui-gon Jinn himself, one of the best lightsaber duelists among the order.

I mean, Darth Maul is someone who saw himself as accomplished enough to take on the Jedi Masters from the Council! Who is the one of the coldest killers in science fiction. I was disappointed, very disappointed in how he is portrayed. Maul and Opress don’t even get all that much dialogue, come to think of it.

The story involves an enterprising criminal leader who puts out a bounty on the two brothers, forcing them to go after him and destroy his entire operation. Of course, the Jedi aren’t too far behind, and matters come to a head on the Outer Rim planet of Moorjhone. The story also involves an insurrection, prophecies, lots of death, special appearances and sacrifice.

Given that Darth Maul is the titular star here, we don’t see all that much of him, and that’s one of the things that really grated on me. Add to it that the story was just too boring and unexciting. In the main, the only element of the book that I really enjoyed was Jedi Master Judd, who I think is definitely one of the best Jedi characters in Star Wars comics fiction to date, no contest. I wish we could have seen more of him.

The art for the mini-series is provided by Bruno Redondo as penciller, Michael Atiyeh as colourist, Michael Heisliner as letterer and Dave Dorman as cover artist. Their joint effort does a great job of showing off the setting. There are some odd expressions and poses here and there, but thankfully they are very few. As a visual spectacle, Death Sentence is one of the best comics I’ve read.

The issue is that it just lacks any kind of creativity in the plot. That’s really the heart of the problem. Having read the amazing Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison by Hayden Blackman, this is even more disappointing.

Rating: 5/10

More Star Wars: #1, #2, Agent of the Empire Vol.1: Iron EclipseDarth Vader and The Ghost Prison.

*****

Huntress Vol.1 by Paul Levitz

Huntress New 52 TPB

My only prior experience with the character comes from the Birds of Prey live action series from a few years back, Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey: Death of Oracle, the Justice League television series, Paul Levitz’s World’s Finest, and her 3-episode special appearance in the new Arrow live-action series. So, a decent enough experience, but not nearly enough since this is my first proper Huntress comic. Having enjoyed Paul Levitz’s great work on World’s Finest, I was quite looking forward to this, and I have to say that Levitz has definitely met my expectations with this, and written a really interesting story.

The core element of the narrative is that Helena has gone to Italy to take down a crime lord who has been flooding Gotham of late with entire caches of weapons and more. The first issue does a great job of introducing the character, and laying down the beginnings of the meta-plot at work here as well. This is a mini-series that is full of action and drama in all the right amount for most part, and is a story that also has some real-world geopolitical references, such as the Arab Spring.

Paul Levitz treats Huntress as a proper character here, in that she has strong motivations for what she does, she has great dialogue that never comes across as cheesy, she sticks to her values and she never compromises with herself. She is a character you can respect and get along with. That’s what I wanted from the book going in, and that’s what I got. All good stuff! It was great to see her character evolve ever so slightly from her introduction and right on through to the ending of the arc, which, by the way, has a great climax. She’s also cheeky, quick to laugh, and utterly badass with that crossbow of hers. Icing on the cake!

Marcus To (pencils), John Dell (inks), and Andrew Dalhouse (colours) have done an excellent job with the interiors and even though sometimes Huntress has slightly different character designs in the book, especially when compared to the cover, I still enjoyed their work. Huntress/Helena Bertinelli is always shown in good, strong poses which always communicate her moods quite well, which is doubly great given some of the dross that other artists have been putting out for a while now. No over-sexualisation of the character here, not at all. The covers for the individual issues, done by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey, are also all excellent, except for the cover to #6 which just has the weirdest composition I’ve ever seen.

Overall, this was a really good story with some great art that I had a lot of fun reading. Given that this is a six-issue standalone book, it’s also a good introduction to the character. I never felt like I was missing anything. Definitely a recommendation!

Rating: 8.5/10

*****

Green Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns

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As with Darth Maul in the Star Wars universe, so it is with Green Lantern in the DC universe. My first introduction to the character was the Justice League animated series, and I’ve loved the character ever since. The Ryan Reynolds starrer Green Lantern was a decent enough movie in my opinion, I certainly enjoyed it, since it served as a great intro to the character as far as I’m concerned. I started reading the comics series last year, and I haven’t looked back since as far as the character himself is concerned, the multiple identities notwithstanding. Geoff Johns’ current New 52 series is definitely one of my favourite monthly books at the moment, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. And that is why I wanted to go all the way back to his first proper run with the character, in which he brought back to life an apparently dead Hal Jordan and since has changed how people have viewed the character and the Green Lantern IP.

What stunned me about this book was the sheer scale of the narrative. It involves every single human Green Lantern – Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, Jon Stewart, and Guy Gardener – and pairs them all with various characters from all over the DCU. The Justice League has a substantial role in the events, as well as the Guardians themselves, and a host of other characters. Sinestro, one of the greatest enemies of the Green Lantern corps, and Hal’s most terrible enemy, also leaves his mark on proceedings. Since I’m a fan of such multi-starrer books, having enjoyed most of the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis books, this was right up my alley. Geoff Johns definitely did a great job with bringing so many different characters together and making them all work within the framework of the incredible story he is telling.

The standout thing about the book is how Geoff Johns treats the narrative. He introduces the characters in small groups at a time, letting the reader get comfortable before moving on to the next set of characters. He slowly builds up the tension in every issue until things finally come to a devastating conclusion in the final issue. The writing is consistent and it is quite apparent that Geoff loves all these characters, especially Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris and Jon Stewart. His enthusiasm for Hal Jordan, the greatest Green Lantern ever, practically leaps out from the pages. Having seen how he treats a younger version of the character in his current ongoing series, his passion for Hal is obvious and welcome. That’s when a comic really becomes enjoyable, when you know that the writer is truly invested in the character and wants to do right by him/her/it. Without that spark, Rebirth would not have been as great a book as it is.

Rebirth is one of the most complex comics I’ve read to date, and that includes the aforementioned Crisis books. In addition to the super-large cast of characters what works really well for this book is that Geoff has written a story that is a great introduction to the Green Lantern Corps in general and Hal Jordan in particular. I’m familiar with the character through the current ongoing main-title Green Lantern series, but one of my main problems with the first volume of that was that there was a lot of apparent backstory going in for the New 52 reboot of DCU. That is not the case. Anything and everything you want to know about the characters is all there on the pages, without ever going into info-dump territory. If you are looking for a good place to start with Green Lantern comics, then Rebirth should be your absolute first stop, in my experience.

Another standout element of the story is the relationship between Hal Jordan and Batman, the latter highly suspicious of anything that the former does or says. Batman is so against Hal that he just doesn’t trust him, and it created for some great scenes in the book. The two finally clash in the opening pages of the sixth issue and that entire scene sequence is one of my favourite moments in the book. Batman just doesn’t know when to give up!

There’s also the chemistry between Hal and Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow. More than the Justice League series, more than the Green Lantern Animated series, more than Smallville and (almost) more than Arrow, it is Rebirth that has gotten me really invested into the character. I loved how Geoff Johns portrays him here and how he develops the friendship between Ollie and Hal. Ollie’s scenes in the book are definitely one of the best.

Ethan von Sciver and Prentis Rollins have provided the majority of the artwork for the entire arc and it is, for its time, one of the best I’ve seen. I also think that it has aged nicely, given some of the truly stunning artwork that can be found in today’s comics. Sciver and Rollins’ work stands up really well with the current Green Lantern series and there is a good, strong visual continuity between the two books. That’s great to see! I’m thinking that I definitely need to check out more of their artwork, because I’m in love!

Rating: 9.5/10

*****

Ravine TPB by Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic

Ravine TPB

Both Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic are among my favourite comics creators. I’ve been having lots of fun with their collaboration on Top Cow’s Artifacts crossover series (I happened to read the first four volumes of the series in like 2-3 days last year) and I consider both of them to be among the best out there in the industry right now. When I heard that they were working on a creator-owned property through the auspices of Top Cow, itself among my favourite publishers, I was all sorts of excited, especially since the early artwork that was released was just plain amazing.

Sadly, my excitement was tempered with the book itself. In the main, I liked the artwork, but the story was often too disjointed and the artwork wasn’t all that clear a lot of times.

Conceived by Sejic, who is both the writer and artist for the book, Ravine tells the story of a fantasy world with several nation states, dragonshifters, ancient magics, prophecies, coming of age characters, and dragons, lots and dragons. On the meta-level, this is a very exciting story. But it is hampered by the fact that there is, even for a graphic novel, a LOT of things to keep track of and the complexity of Sejic’s work works against the book a lot of times. Some of the artwork isn’t all the distinct either, with several characters looking the same in some key scenes, and that makes it all the harder to read. The painted style that Sejic used in Artifacts is back again for Ravine, but unlike the former, I just wasn’t a fan of it this time with the latter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a metric ton of detail in each panel and they are all stunning for the most, but it’s just that sometimes the details blur together and becomes difficult to differentiate things at times. In the advance reading copy I got through Ron Marz, the colours are actually a bit dark as well, which no doubt colours my experience (pun intended), so I’m considering buying the individual series to see how it is all in “reality”. Sounds like a fun experiment of sorts!

The dialogue was often confusing, and I kept getting disoriented with the narrative, which often necessitated second and even third reads of the pages. This made the book frustrating, and not all that good of an experience in totality. Ravine is definitely not up to part with Ron Marz’s Artifacts for Top Cow or Prophecy for Dynamite. Given that Sejic is the co-writer, I think some of his influence is at work here as well. I’m hoping that together, the two can improve for the next installments because this is a story that I definitely want to stick with!

What I will definitely credit Sejic and Marz is with the complexity of the world, even though I found it overwhelming a lot of the time. There are political, cultural and geographical nuances at work throughout the book and despite their flaws, they really do make for a good enough experience. The best I can say is that I’m really looking forward to reading more of Ravine, and that I eagerly anticipate the follow-on issues from this TPB, in spite of my various issues with it. There’s a great genius at work here, that I cannot deny.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: Batman #13-#17 by Scott Snyder (DC Comics), and, Marvel Now! – Wolverine #1 by Paul Cornell (Marvel).

*****

Batman #13-#17 by Scott Snyder

Art: Greg Capullo | Colours & Letters: Various | Cover: Greg Capullo

“Death of the Family” part 1 featuring the return of the Joker! He crippled Batgirl. He killed Robin. What will the Joker do now that he’s returned to Gotham City? And what must Batman do to protect his secret identity and that of those who fight alongside him?

“Death of the Family” part 2. The Joker is back and somehow more sinister than ever! What caused this change? And can even Batman stop a Joker so driven and dangerous?  Plus: in the backup feature, the Penguin is running out of options as he’s confronted by the Joker!

“Death of the Family” part 3. The Joker’s attacks have taken their toll on Batman and his allies, and now they have to face the impossible. Plus: in the backup feature, witness The Joker’s confrontation with the Riddler as the horror of The Joker’s plan is revealed.

Death of the Family” part 4. Batman heads into his showdown with The Joker as the madman’s plan is finally revealed! And in the backup story, in the midst of The Joker’s assault on Batman and his allies, get a secret glimpse into what started The Clown Prince of Crime on his horrifying journey! “

“Death of the Family” part 5, the shocking conclusion to the Bat-Family epic. Who lives? Who dies? Who laughs last? Find out as Batman and The Joker face off one last time!

batmanComp03The Death of the Family Batman arc is one issue on from its conclusion and I thought it would be a good time to write a quick roundup review of the entire Death of the Family Arc so far. This is one of the best Batman stories that I have ever read and I can firmly say that Snyder has pulled out all the stops to make Death of the Family not only beat his The Court of Owls, but excel that by a lot.

Opening with #13, Snyder hits the ground running for a great Joker story by including several references to pre-New 52 events, such as the Joker’s first kill in Gotham and where it all started. This is a brilliant way to pay homage to the Clown Prince of Crime, and Snyder has managed to do it without decreasing the entertainment value. After the Dollmaker cut off the Joker’s face in the first issue of Detective Comics of the New 52, it’s been a year since his absence and he’s back. And deadlier than ever.

Snyder also uses #13 to test Jim Gordon and the GCPD to the brink. The chilling opening sequence where the Joker arrives in Gotham City is very haunting, and #14 only continues from there. #14 is probably the best in the entire Arc, and Snyder has made this storyline really enjoyable – really dark and gritty, with the tension increased by the atmospheric artwork provided by Greg Capullo and the strong, consistent backup stories by James Tynion IV which show the Joker gathering together the more famous faces of Batman’s rogue gallery – we get Two Face, Penguin and the Riddler featured here.

BatmanComp04Over the course of the five issues, Snyder has created a storyline that all future writers behind the Clown Prince of Crime will have to look at and think if their attempts will ever be as good as this. The writer has created a great book that although the conclusion will leave some dissatisfied due to the enormous hype built around the final issue and the death of Damian Wayne – which didn’t actually take place in Death in the Family, but this is a Batman arc that shouldn’t be missed.

Batman’s narration, like it was in the Court/Night of Owls stories, is superb and is really one of the strengths in this book. Each time Batman starts talking; Snyder increases the monologue and delivers a powerful conclusion. The Joker is a villain that really should be saved for these kind of stories – and not thrust about in every other Batman comic as too many defeats by Batman would start to make him feel kind of useless, ala the Daleks in Doctor Who and their over-use in the Russell T. Davis era.

Over the course of these issues, Batman is tested, pushed to the limit of his mind, body and soul in the way that any good story featuring the Caped Crusader should do. Capullo is quickly becoming one of my favourite Batman artists and I really hope that he and Snyder stick around for many Batman books to come.

I loved this comic series which is why I am finding myself wondering if any future Batman story will live up to the masterpiece created by Snyder and Capullo, even the just-as ambitious Zero Year arc that is set to follow on from #21. But I’ll be sticking around for that series for sure, and I can’t wait to see where Snyder takes the Dark Knight from here.

[Note: I have already read Batman #18, but will cover that in a future roundup]

Rating: 5/5

*****

Wolverine #1 by Paul Cornell

Writer: Paul Cornell | Art: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer | Colours: Matt Hollingsworth | Letters: Cory Petit | Cover Art: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Jason Keith

The best there is at what he does doing what he does best! When Wolverine finds himself the bargaining chip in a hostage situation, he must make a decision to save a little boy that will follow him forever…literally!

Wolverine #1I have a mixed feeling about this first Wolverine issue by Paul Cornell, which I certainly wasn’t expecting to have coming into this comic. After all, it’s Paul Cornell – writer of some of my favourite Doctor Who episodes, Father’s Day, Human Nature and The Family of Blood, alongside the more recent awesome comic series Demon Knights from DC’s New 52. I’ve never read a bad work by him and I had a good reason to be going into Wolverine with high hopes.

And was I disappointed? To an extent. From what I’ve seen from Cornell in the past, he’s never let me down and I was hoping for something spectacular here. However, Wolverine seems to be more of a ‘playing it safe’ take on one of the more popular Marvel characters and it doesn’t really break any new ground on the character.

Although there is more to a straightforward Wolverine issue than simply meets the eye at a first glance, as Cornell plays on the character himself, working in several aspects of Logan’s very busy life, and manages to make it clear that there are greater things to come. It also could be seen as a nice introduction to the character for those of you who are still not all too familiar about Wolverine’s powers – as they’re explored in some depth here. There are some nice homages to find in Wolverine #1, even if the only memorable character here is of course Wolverine himself and we don’t get any features from any of the other crew in the Marvel Universe.

 One of the most important elements of the narrative is Wolverine’s healing factor and It will be interesting to see if Cornell continues to test it in future books. Alan Davis is also on hand here with some interesting artwork, and the Wolverine featured here is more old school than what comics fans will be used to seeing and I think that works here, and whilst the artwork itself is nothing too spectacular and it can feel like a standard Marvel mystery story at times, you shouldn’t give this one a miss.

Rating: 3/5

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Comics reviewed by Bellarius: Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #9-12 by Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh (IDW).

*****

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #9-12 by Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh

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Godzilla has ultimately been an extremely hit and miss franchise. In terms of quality it really is all over the place with various films being infamously clunky, reliant upon big screen effects and suffering from multiple reboots, not to mention the problems it had with human characters. Believe it or not the Roland Emmerich’s adaptation wasn’t the worst when it came to bad characters, an insane plot or… well lots of problems. While most of what IDW has produced since getting the license has been stellar, Kingdom of Monsters is one of the less outstanding examples.

Set in an alternate universe of the Heisei era, Kingdom was a twelve issue series which tried to show the monsters on a global scale and having a much greater impact upon the world. Rather than retreating back into the sea each time they appeared, the kaiju in this universe went on a rampage. They weren’t going to be quiet or kept to one island and would quite happily trash every city they ran into. Yeah, Godzilla himself didn’t stop at Tokyo in this story; he kept going and slaughtered everything in his path. To try and combat it, the American military deploys their own newly developed war machine, Mechagodzilla, which proceeds to go rogue once it falls under the control of Sergeant Steven Woods. A soldier with a severe chip on his shoulder and desiring revenge against the monsters.

One thing worth praising is that despite this collection consisting of the tail end of the series, there’s no continuity lockout preventing you keeping up with what’s going on. While a few things are left unexplained, the opening pages are quick to bring anyone new up to speed. Never going into the “as you know” conversations which hamstring the story but making sure anyone picking up the trade knows what’s going on while giving details that would make anyone want to go back and read the whole story. The way it’s delivered feels a little archaic, like something you’d find in comics from the late 90s to early 2000s, but it works well.

What doesn’t work quite so well is how the final issues handle monster battles. While in past issues these had been huge things which had wrecked entirely landscapes, in the closing moments of the series they feel much more like brief skirmishes. They only go on for a few pages before they’re suddenly resolved, either by massed firepower or in a brief twist which just brings them down. It lacks any pacing to events and what we do see is over almost as soon as it starts, without any sign of continuing.

A likely reason for this is Jason Ciaramella was just the wrong person to deal with purely monster battles with little human involvement. When reading through the collection it’s fairly obvious that the writing is much stronger when focusing upon human survival against the monsters rather than the battles themselves. Helped in no small part but a surprisingly good narration over scenes of decimation and by Victor Santos’ familiarity with drawing such scenes, having worked on the Hellboy spinoff BPRD extensively. Overall it just feels like Ciaramella wanted to work on a somewhat Cloverfield inspired story but couldn’t quite handle when monsters needed to actually fight one another.

That being said we don’t quite learn enough about the human characters to keep things going. It’s not so much they’re flat as they are unexplored, suffering from the same issues characters in Stormwatch had. With character development often sidelined or limited by the ongoing action and huge setpieces. They’re still good enough to make the reader care if they die or not but besides the aforementioned sergeant and the man leading the project which created Mechagodzilla none really stand out.

There’s no denying that this is one of the weaker stories on IDW’s comics lineup. Much of it is put down to a supposedly big shift the last few issues undertook when it was revealed at the last minute this would lead into an ongoing series rather than being self-contained. Even without that though it’s still very flawed. If you are looking for a more human side to a full-scale kaiju war or what the world would look like if Godzilla truly ran amok then Kingdom of Monsters is worth a look. On the other hand if you’re looking for something more straight forwards or better structured when it comes to fighting the Legends and Gangsters & Goliaths would definitely be a better option.

Rating: 5.8/10

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Comics reviewed by Lord of the Night: Drifters Vol.1 by Kouta Hirano (Dark Horse).

*****

Drifters Vol.1 by Kouta Hirano

Drifters Vol.1

My first manga review for The Founding Fields, and I knew it simply had to be Drifters. I’ve only recently gotten into Drifters but i’ve been a Kouta Hirano fan ever since I discovered Hellsing nearly 6-7 years ago. Vampires fighting against Catholic Knights and Nazi SS vampires, it appealed to me instantly. And Drifters, while being far more fantasy-based than Hellsing was, is no less awesome.

There is another world out there. A world of magic and wonder, filled with elves, dwarves and hobbits and dragons. And in that world there are two types of people, people that do not belong there. The Ends, those who hate humans and have forsworn their own humanity to wield strange powers in the bargain, led by the Black King who brings destruction in his wake. And the Drifters, those who bring change to this primitive world of spells and monsters. And each Drifter and End, comes from our own world, from all across time and space. They come from any era, any country, any people. And this is their story.

The story of Drifters is immensely different from Hiranos’ previous works. A fantasy world with historical characters killing each other, and the story that the first volume contains starts all of it off quite well, introducing the main characters and a little bit about the world they inhabit, but leaving enough mystery that not everything has been explained in these first eleven chapters. Hirano has the start of a very unique story here, one that showcases all the violence, absurdity and unlikely heroes that his previous works all contain, and one that I have no doubt will grow more complex, violent and hilarious as more volumes are released.

The characters in Drifters are, for the most part, real people that did exist in our history. The Drifters Toyohisa Shimazu, Oda Nobunaga and Nasu no Yoichi, the Ends Joan of Arc, Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov and Hijekata. I personally really like this choice as it lends the characters a certain weight, we know of these people and the things they did in life and it makes them feel real when we read about them in the manga, even if they were very likely nothing like they are depicted here, and it also allows historical jokes about them that are quite funny. Hirano knows how to create unique and memorable characters and each character is strongly written and drawn, though not a lot has been revealed in this first volume about anyone but the main characters, so there’s still a lot to learn about them.

The action is of course excellent. If there’s one thing that Hirano does better than anyone, and there is, it’s write bloody action scenes filled with guys being decapitated, cut in half, barraged by bullets or arrows or leaping through the air with katanas ready to cut. Drifters has brilliant battle scenes, though not as high-tech as Hellsing it uses magical elements such as dragons and spells to enhance the battles that focus on swordwork and archery. Combine that with beautifully drawn artwork and you have a manga whose action scenes are unforgettable. This first volume starts off small but does feature a large battle, and both of them show off the violence and fantasy aspects of this series amazingly well.

The artwork is beautiful. No other way to put it really. It’s very well detailed, the people actually looking unique from each other in features other than hair style and eye colour which in a manga tend not to matter since there is no colour, but Hirano’s style makes it so that each character looks like an individual and you can tell who is who with the characters just standing there. The physical combat portions are drawn in a way that you can tell not only what each character is doing but the movements that got them to that position in the first place, and the world and fantasy elements are drawn very well too, the locales being  suitably medieval while the fantasy elements actually drawn from classic western fantasy sources such as dragons and elves, which adds a nice mix to the series.

This first volume is definitely a good start to the series. Ending in just the right place, and with the main storyline revealed, the volume ends on Chapter 11 and with some really really funny omakes at the end. I personally loved the volume from start to finish, it’s everything that I love about Kouta Hirano’s works and this time with a fantasy twist which only further appeals to me. I wouldn’t recommend this manga to anyone who doesn’t like gratuitous violence, really really gratuitous, but for those who do like that this is a manga you NEED to read. For that matter you should also read Hirano’s previous work Hellsing which I cannot possibly recommend enough.

Rating: 8.8/10

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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