August 11, 2013

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Quick Hit: Eat-Man Volumes 1 and 2

JIM LEE, Everybody!
Written and Illustrated by Akihito Yoshitomi
Viz

A mercenary with an odd diet goes across the land taking on jobs and filling them to his own strange specification of the terms in this series that lasted 19 volumes in Japan but only appears to have made it through these two in English Translation.

Eat-Man was one of the early manga I read, back when I would scour Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's main branch for anything and everything manga. (Man, I miss doing that at a library. Maybe once I move.) I remembered enjoying it, so when I found these on the cheap together, I grabbed them. A re-read found them to be enjoyable, but I didn't connect to them the way I had.

One of the problems is the character himself. Bolt is a loner who goes around and pretends not to care while he saves the day for those who are less fortunate. It's probably a sub-genre of Shonen Manga by now (it certainly is in Western Comics), and I'm a bit weary of the concept unless the story is really strong.

Unfortunately, that's not the case here. There's very little unusual going on in these stories, and Bolt just isn't interesting enough to me. His mystery is the ability to eat metal and recreate it through his hands, with apparently no ill effects other than seeming miserable all the time, which gets on my nerves over time. I can't see any limits on his powers (hell, he eats a magical orb that holds a demon and only gets mild indigestion), which means I'm never convinced he might die. Worse, no one around him dies, so it becomes clear after reading a few stories we have nothing more than action romps with exaggerated fight scenes.

As far as the art goes, Yoshitomi's line work doesn't set him apart from the other Shonen artists I've experienced. There's an emphasis on the characters instead of the backgrounds, the girls tend to look alike (and are either annoying or helpless or both) and the monsters tend to be abstract in nature. Bolt wears a trench coat, which billows dramatically and he tweaks his glasses in pose after pose (when not shown eating a bolt). There's nothing technically wrong with the art, but it's incredibly generic. If you took panels from Eat-Man and shuffled them together with other books, I'm not sure you could tell the difference.

As mentioned above, this one didn't click in translation, and I think I can see why. It didn't even benefit from a link to Jim Lee back in his heyday as an Image Guy, before being one of the DC New 52 folks. (That's why I used the cover above, because I find it kinda funny.) It's an okay find, but nothing special. Something you might want to snack on, but Eat-Man's just not a main dish.