Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Unearthly

I was startled to discover that such a thing as this existed, given my enthusiasm for the works of Ted Naifeh, yet here it is: a manga series written by the creator of Courtney Crumrin and Polly and the Pirates, with art by Elmer Damaso. I wasn't too keen on Gloom Cookie, which was illustrated by Ted Naifeh and written by another writer, but I thought that it could maybe work better the other way around. And it did. Naifeh was originally going to illustrate this manga himself (see the character concepts in the back of the first volume), but opted to let another artist do just that. Fortunately for us, that illustrator is quite competent because the first volume of the series is really very good. It's about a shy high school student named Ann, who develops a crush on a boy (Jem) in one of her classes who seems to return the affection. The most popular girl of the school (Rae) also notices Jem and the two kind of butt heads over him. Meanwhile, Jem has been replaced by an alien and begins to act strangely around both girls. It seems that the two girls must put their differences aside to save the young man both of them love. It's really a fun concept with some great characters. Probably my favorite character of the book is Ann's best friend, Nikki, a cynical dramatic girl who tries to dissuade Ann from her interest in Jem. The scenes are just really fun when she's involved. This book is not perfect however. While Damaso does a wonderful job illustrating mostly everything, he does seem to have some problems when it comes to the alien technology. When a shot calls for a spaceship or whatnot, it's difficult to make out what it looks like, as the panels tend to be too busy and the spacecrafts designed so strangely. You can pretty much tell what's going on in the scenes, but it's more work for the reader than it should be (fortunately the scenes are very few). By the end of the volume, Damaso seems to get more of a hold on this aspect of the story anyways, so I don't want to overemphasize the fault. Aside from that, I do not care for the final design of Rae. It tries too hard to be manga-ish, in my opinion, and just turned out slightly ugly. Naifeh's original concept for the character would have been more appropriate, although I do appreciate Damaso's design for the alien more than Naifeh's. I know it's a typical thing to be done in manga, but I really liked the uninked drawings at the beginning of each chapter. It really showcases some very beautiful art. The cover of this volume doesn't do the artist justice. Pick up the manga and flip through it to see if it strikes you or not. I certainly enjoyed it.

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