Author: Keitaro Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 5 (ongoing), $12.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shogakukan in Japan, November 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, adventure
A series intro from the back cover of volume 5:
“Jonah is a child soldier, born amidst the chaotic conflicts that rage across West Asia, his family lost to a war fueled by weapons supplied by the so-called Merchants of Death – international arms dealers. Despite Jonah’s hatred of weapons and violence, he employs both extremely well in the service of high-flying arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar and her band of mercenaries. Their journey through the dark underbelly of the world’s arms markets may lead only to damnation, but will Jonah one day make his way back to the light? Only one thing is certain: it’s going to be a long, hard road out of hell…”
They aren’t kidding. The volume opens pleasantly enough, as Koko’s crew is taking a relaxing break at a beach. Jonah is tossed around in the water by the crew, and a couple of the braver boys try to put the moves on the busty Valmet. R gets a swift and brutal kick to the head for his trouble. Jonah muses some concerns over the way Koko constantly pushes herself to the limit, while Koko fawns over him in her own way. In another quiet moment aboard their ship, Mao reveals his past to a curious Jonah. He’s been working secretly for Koko to support his family, who still think he’s in the military. Their calm days end when Koko gets a delivery request. They are to fly a group of humanitarian doctors into a refugee camp in the middle of a war zone. First they must drop off a load of weapons to the army stationed nearby, but Republic T won’t be too happy about the doctors’ arrival, so it will be a dangerous trip. They arrive at the Planina airport on the Balkan Peninsula without any trouble. The doctors know they’re going into a highly volatile area. Republic T is not known for honoring humanitarian rights, and there’s one member of the army who’s so bad he puts the whole lot to shame. The leader of the Balkan Dragons, Dragan “Baldra” Nikolaevich,” freely commits heinous acts with no repercussions due to his status as a general’s son. Even knowing Baldra could arrive and cause trouble for them, the doctors remain in high spirits. The doctors hide in the back of the plane, hidden only by a tarp, as the transaction occurs outside. It looks like they’ll make it through with no problems…until Baldra suddenly shows up and demands to inspect the plane. Koko denies him entry, but Baldra remains convinced the doctors are on board and calls in the cavalry. Things are tense, but Koko has everything under control, until the doctors’ leader charges out to try and cool things down himself. His attempt at negotiation doesn’t go well, and chaos breaks out on the runway. Their escape turns into a rescue operation, as Koko insists on delivering the entire cargo to its destination. A quick call to Scarecrow and Schokolade guarantees some extra money for their extra trouble, and a few flashy explosions later, Koko’s team is ready to head on home. The volume wraps up with the beginning of the next story as Valmet disappears after a strange nightmare, and a team of assassins gears up to take out an unnamed arms dealer.
This one reminded me of Black Lagoon, and gave me a longing to read that instead. Jormungand isn’t bad, but it pales in comparison to the stronger title. It’s also less pleasant to look at. The excessively masculine art and character designs are only slightly less creepy than the bizarre, demonic looking eyes. It’s biggest strength is the interaction between the characters. Koko’s team exhibits fantastic camaraderie. Everyone has their place, they each have their special skill, and they know how to back each other up. They’re a great team, they’re professionals, but they’re also friends. They’re just as good at supporting each other on the battle field as they are at pushing each other’s buttons off the field. Jonah, who hates the very thing Koko’s team deals with, has oddly enough found himself a home with the arms dealers. In no small part due to Koko herself, who is particularly fond of the boy. There’s a familial aspect to Koko’s team. They’re easy to like even though they’re Merchants of Death. They hold themselves to a code of honor, which is particularly evident in this volume when Koko risks her team to rescue the captured Doctor Riviere from Baldra (although she’s obviously getting something out of it; about five million somethings). Koko herself cares deeply for her team, is well aware of their strengths and knows how to use them effectively, listens to their ideas, jokes with them as equals, but retains her authority at all times. She is often cheerful and energetic, but she also knows how to get down to business. If nothing else, the book is filled with interesting, well-defined characters who pop off the page. Expect them to be accompanied by explosions, shoot outs, and fan service.
There may or may not be a Bento Bako Bonus this Friday. I’m planning on reviewing the Robert Jordan’s New Spring TPB, but I may slip in a Ghibli film review for my regular Friday spot.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.