MMF/10 Days of Halloween Horror Day 6: Raiders Volume 1

 Welcome to day six of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror 2011!  We'll be featuring horror-related reviews right up until the big day!  You can find the Halloween Horror posts for Panel Patter here, and don't forget to check out the Book Stew for book-book horror, too!

This is another special edition of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror, crossing over with the Horror Manga edition of the Manga Movable Feast, hosted by my friend Lori Henderson.  The Manga Movable Feast is a chance for bloggers of all kinds to get together and discuss a particular manga, a manga-ka, or even a manga genre, in this case horror.  We've talked about everything from Barefoot Gen to Yotsuba&!, and opinions can range from the raving to the ranting, depending on the comic series being covered.  I'm really looking forward to see what kinds of hauntings are in store for the manga world this time!

Written by JinJun Park
Illustrated by JinJun Park
Yen Press

Archaeology can be a deadly game when the prize at stake is the legendary Holy Grail!  Irel is a rather deadly member of an investigative team that's hoping to find the blood of Christ.  He's not the only one after it, however, and finds that they'll stop at nothing to get what they want.  When Irel is dying, his only hope is to drink the alleged holy blood, which does in fact grant him immortality.  But that's just the start of his problems, because now he's a perfect farm animal for zombies!  Can Irel find a way out of this new life, that seems far dangerous than his original one?  Find out in the action-packed start to Raiders!

I have absolutely no idea when I picked this one up but I know it was sitting on my shelf for some time.  It looked intriguing enough to survive when I was culling a lot of books I had no desire to read but had acquired over the years.  I figured it would be a quick read and then off to the donation bin.

Not so fast!

What I found when I started reading Raiders is that it's a fun, quick romp of a story with a premise that is ludicrous but somehow seems perfectly normal because the entire situation is over the top.  Park does not even try to make this series seem realistic in any way, and that works perfectly.  From the opening pages, where an archaeological assistant has James Bond-level skills and kills tons of people to try and effectively steal an artifact to the idea that there is an elixir of life to having a bunch of undead monster types battle it out to the rights for a guy who is described on the cover copy as an "all you can eat buffet."  I love that none of this is taken seriously.  There's no attempt to rationalize any of it.  We're in a world that's totally screwed up, and I hope that awesome sense that everything is (relatively) normal for the characters doesn't change as the series progresses.

I was especially surprised at how well this holds together.  My impression of manhwa generally is that it's gorgeous artistically but that plotting and dialog drag the story down, usually making it something I don't want to keep reading.  That's not the case here.  We get a pretty good introduction to who Irel is and the world he inhabits.  We get conflict from the first page onward, with very little down time.  The battles have a cohesion that helps us flow from panel to panel, and we get enough story here to see that things are not going to be as simple as the first appear:  Irel's captor might not be as bad as some of the other players in this drama.  I thought that the reactions were quite natural, if a bit stiff here and there.

The nice thing is that this emphasis on storytelling doesn't reduce the quality of the art.  Park's lines are a match for any of the other manhwa I've read, save the outstanding artwork of Bride of the Water God.  The characters flow across the page, with a lot of the action being large without feeling like the story is getting shorted.  There's a sense of connection to the drawings, which I mentioned above, that was lacking in, say, Time and Again.  I was impressed with Park's work, and I definitely want to read more.

Raiders is not a serious story.  If you want deep, psychological horror, this isn't going to satisfy you.  It's not The Drifting Classroom or Psycho.  This is more like Jormundgand or a good Hammer horror film.  It's a romp of a tale that doesn't take long to read and probably won't hold up for the ages.  But if you're looking for a story about zombies and stuff that's a bit different from the usual and are okay with a popcorn story, look this one up.  Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised.  I know I am looking forward to reading Volume 2.