There’s a few books that I’ve been sitting on because I didn’t want to read them. I realize that is not a good way to start off this post. Typically I try to pick something I really enjoyed or feature a special volume for my Monday columns, but this time, I just want to get these titles out of the way already. Consider that a warning that I really don’t care for the following two series. If you like these titles, well, I think you’ll like these volumes, because it’s more of what you’ve been enjoying so far. And you probably don’t need or want to read the following reviews. For everyone else, if you share my tastes, read on and judge for yourself whether these books are for you or not.
Title: Dogs: Bullets and Carnage
Author: Shirow Miwa
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 5 (ongoing), $12.99
Vintage: 2010 by Shueisha in Japan, March 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, drama
Dogs follows the lives of four main characters: Heine, the white-haired genetically modified gunman; Badou, the journalist, photographer, and information broker, searching for his brother’s killer; Naoto Fuyumine, a female sword wielder who is often with Heine; and Mihai, a retired assassin. The world of Dogs is a dark place, divided into the Above world and the Below world, with the Below world filled with the unsavory aspects of society, and ruled by an organization that performs genetic experimentation and is known for using extreme violence. These characters search for a way into the Below, in order to discover the secrets of their pasts. This volume features a big showdown between Heine and his “brother” Giovanni.
We open up back in the opera house with Mihai, Badou, and Herbst. Herbst does some hypnotizing, and Badou is shot. Then all hell breaks loose. The trains come crashing through with guns literally blazing, and a massive army of strange masked men unloads from the cars and launches an attack where Liza, Nill, Heine, Naoto, and the others are gathered. A desperate fight begins to hold the army off until reinforcements arrive. As explosions rock the city, Mihai and Badou make their escape, while down below, Heine and Naoto tear through the unending waves of soldiers. In the middle of the battle, Giovanni appears and draws Heine into battle. As everyone fights for their lives, the master plan begins to form, and then an enormous string of explosions tears through the underground and the city above.
That all sounds quite exciting, but really, my summary is more exciting that what happens. This series is just so inexplicably boring. You would think with sword fights, gun fights, explosions, mutant soldiers, genetically enhanced and near immortal characters, and all the things going on would make for an exciting read. However, in the end all of this is just a flashy show of lights to distract you from the fact that there really isn’t much there. The art, while well detailed, becomes unintelligible in heavy action scenes. The only positive thing I can really say about is that Pippin, my ferret, liked it. You can see some of his chew marks on the cover up there.
Author: Tsutomu Nihei
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 5 (of 6), $12.99
Vintage: 2007 by Shueisha in Japan, February 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Cyberpunk, science fiction, action
This series is even more unintelligible than Dogs, because not only is the art hard to follow, so is the story. And since I haven’t read a volume since volume 3, I’m even more lost now than I was then. My review of volume 3 said “It’s a jumbled mess of initially impressive art and very little text.” And later: The story is a mess of techno-babble, strange terms, and acronyms, and you’re just expected to “get it.” That perception continues with volume 5. Since I can’t follow a damn thing in this book, here’s the summary off the back cover:
“Seeking to remake the world, Niarudi – the matriarch of the DRF and the mastermind behind the N5SV drone epidemic – has unleashed the reverse morphic polymer. But unplanned contact during the transformation reduces the planet to ruin. In its place a giant cordlike world appears, complete with its own population and ecosystem. Enveloped by the change, Zoichi, Nishu and the others set out into this bizarre new world to thwart Niarudi’s plans. The strange inhabitants of the ‘Cord’ bring stranger revelations still, and the struggle to control the future of humanity turns towards its final conflict!”
That’s pretty general, and describes, as far as I can tell, the end of volume 3 and what happened in volume 4. In volume 5, Buutsu and Yaa lead Zoichi and his AI Fuyu to their village, and the hunt is on to refuel Zoichi’s bike. The opening scenes speed by in a rush of jumbled panels (well, the panels themselves are always quite structured; what I mean is what’s going on within them). All is quiet until a Patrol Inspector arrives and starts slaughtering the citizens. Zoichi and the Inspector duke it out, until it locates Yaa and leaves with her. Zoichi launches a rescue of course, but is too late to save Yaa, though not too late to get some answers. Zoichi’s theft of the child meant to be Niarudi’s vessel is only a small setback for Niarudi, as her manifest form finally appears and she easily locates their location. Despite the attacks, Zoichi decides to protect the child from the DRF and Niarudi. As usual, things won’t be easy for Zoichi. Just like this book isn’t easy to read.
Tune in Wednesday for some books I actually very much enjoy.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.