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September 27, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Clover Omnibus

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Clover
Author: CLAMP
Publisher: Dark Horse
Volume: All four volumes collected in a single omnibus, $19.95
Vintage: 1997 by Kodansha in Japan, 2009 by Dark Horse (omnibus edition)
Genre: Science fiction, romance, drama

This melancholy science fiction tale is divided up into four “volumes,” and two time lines.  The first half of the book follows ex-soldier Kazuhiko as he transports a precious cargo – a strange girl named Sue.  As a special favor to General Ko, Kazuhiko takes the girl away from a green house filled with mechanical creatures, and begins a dangerous journey to Fairy Park, aided by an old friend named Gingetsu and his partner Ran.  Along the way, Kazuhiko must deal with a botched transport as someone interferes with Ran’s teleport system, being taken hostage by a rebel militia, an ambush by the Azaiean army, being chased by an old adversary, and an attack by the ruling Wizards.  Getting Sue to Fairy Park will take a miracle, and Sue isn’t beyond performing one herself.

The second part of the book focuses heavily on Kazuhiko’s bittersweet romance with a beautiful singer named Ora.  We also get to see how Sue came to know of Ora and became her friend, even though they never met.  Ora’s true feelings and deepest secrets are revealed through conversations with Sue, as Kazuhiko watches helplessly from the background as Ora fades away.  The last part of the book goes even further back, and focuses on Gingetsu and Ran’s relationship, while also showing the very beginning of Kazuhiko’s relationship with Ora (as a background element to Gingetsu’s story).  Many secrets of the Clovers (what Sue is; they’re sort of sorcerers, under the control of the government, which fears their power) and the Clover Project are revealed in these last two segments of the book, as well as the truth about Sue and Ran, clearing up many mysteries from the first half of this collection.  The entire volume has a slightly unfinished feel, and it seems that CLAMP had wanted to continue the series, but it’s still complete.

The first half of the book takes place in the “present,” while the second half consists of flashbacks featuring important events alluded to previously.  Technically you could read this book backwards, in chronological order, but I think the book works better with its mystery, and obviously CLAMP felt the same or they wouldn’t have written it this way.  The story is about love and happiness.  Specifically, finding true happiness, and being someone’s happiness.  Ora knows her time is running out, but wants to be happy, and wants to make Kazuhiko happy…even though in the end, it’s only she who is happy, and she cannot give that happiness in return.  Sue has a similar experience, with the exception that Ora was allowed to try and find her happiness, while Sue had been denied it her entire life.  Only when she is freed by Kazuhiko is she able to fulfill her dream of being happy.  Poor Kazuhiko is left behind in both cases, brokenhearted and alone.

Holy moly, this is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen.  Dark Horse has put together an amazing, must buy collection.  CLAMP’s beautiful art aside, the presentation of the volume is spectacular.  The cover has a bit of a metallic shimmer to it, and is bound well, though reading the book is going to wrinkle the spine quite a bit (like my spine here; I stopped reading and quickly scanned the cover in before it got any worse); which is natural but really unfortunate.  The inner art is crisp and clean, the panels are simple, and everything is well drawn and defined.  Scattered throughout the volume, at the beginning of each structured volume, and at the end of the book, are gorgeous color pages printed on glossy paper, vibrantly colored and stunning.  These color pages include the covers of each of the four published volumes, as well as several images never before published in the printed volumes.  The book is an amazing value.

If it has any flaws, it’s the book’s abstract feel, very different from many of CLAMP’s other works.  It’s more like a work of art than a comic book (not to say that comics can’t be art).  This is also reflected in the structure of the word balloons, which can take some extra concentration to follow properly.  This “flaw” isn’t strictly negative, however; the book flows beautifully, if a little strangely, and creates a very specific mood and pacing for the story.  It works, and makes Clover a pleasant, if different, read, capturing the feelings of loneliness and mystery that permeate the text and characters quite well.  My only other complaint is on the part of Dark Horse.  A rather nasty typo in a chapter title.  It should say “Irritation,” but instead says “Irrriation.”  Not sure how that got through.  It’s an unfortunate mar in an otherwise gorgeous collection.




  1. Aly

    You’re very correct when you say it has an unfinished feel. In fact, that’s only supposed to be half the story – Clover was supposed to be eight tankouban volumes, but when Amie folded in 1999, it put the book in limbo; so much like other works from CLAMP (Shin Shunkaden, X, Gohou Drug), it was left in a state of limbo. They say they have the intent to one day finish it, but nobody really knows for sure if that will ever come to pass.

    Great review, though!

  2. Kristin

    Thank you!
    Yes, I remember reading that the magazine it was printed in folded. Very unfortunate. Kazuhiko’s story is clearly unfinished. I noted that the leaf on his hand did not dissolve like it was supposed to once his mission was complete, so I figured there was something more to tell. Would be great if they’d go back to it.

  3. Jade

    This sounds like a cool book. I’ve been interested in it, but I wanted to wait for someone to give it a pass first.

  4. Billy

    Sounds like a real gem for $20!

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Thomas Brown, Thomas Brown, Kristin Bomba, Comic Attack, Comic Attack and others. Comic Attack said: For #MangaMonday we spotlight the CLOVER omnibus from @DarkHorseComics! https://comicattack.net/2010/09/bbwclover/ #comics #manga […]

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