Title: Blood Blockade Battlefront (B3)
Author: Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Volume: Volume 1, $10.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shueisha in Japan, September 27, 2011 by Dark Horse
Genre: Action, science fiction, more action
Three years ago, New York City was torn apart by a mysterious gateway connecting Earth and the Beyond. The city in the middle of what was left of NYC became known as Jerusalem’s Lot. Jerusalem’s Lot is enshrouded by a thick fog, and within that fog lives all manner of creatures, from demonic entities to the humans that survived the disaster. It’s been three weeks since Leonard Watch arrived in Jerusalem’s Lot, and he’s had a relatively normal visit so far. Unfortunately, a fast moving mach monkey steals his camera (he’s some sort of photographer or reporter), and as he tries to get it back, Leo ends up in the middle of a street battle between an enormous monster and the city’s maniacal soldiers. He is rescued by a father rude fellow named Zap Renfro, who mistakes him for a man named Johnny Landis. Desperate to escape to safety, and intrigued that the man named Zap works for the secret organization known as Libra, Leo plays along and is taken to Libra’s headquarters. Libra is a secret society of superhumans that works to maintain some semblance of balance within Jerusalem’s Lot. At their base, Leo is quickly introduced to the beastly looking Klaus V. Reinhertz, one of Libra’s top men, and the sarcastic Chain Sumeragi, an expert of intelligence gathering. Leo hardly has time to get their names when an announcement plays over the TV. Femt, the King of Depravity and a leader within Jerusalem’s Lot, unleashes a terrifying and powerful monster on the city. The monster has been split in half, and Femt sets a game into motion – destroy the gateway that summons the monster’s other half before they are reunited (which would result in unimaginable death and destruction). Libra hardly has time to absorb this information when the gateway opens up right before them, summoning an immense arm that cuts the building they are in in half. It is here that we learn that Leo is not the unassuming weakling he appears to be – his eyes were given to him by a demon, and he is able to see through illusions and other otherworldly things that others cannot. Leo has a question he needs answered, and Libra needs his eyes to track down the gateway, so Klaus welcomes Leo into the group. The gang races through the town after the gateway, which just so happens to be the mach monkey from before. Both Klaus and Zap exhibit enormous power in the following battles, power which they seem to draw from their own blood. Once the chaos dies down, Leo finds himself feeling more at home with a new group of friends. But chaos isn’t ever far behind in Jerusalem’s Lot, and this time Leo’s eyes get him into trouble when he spots a group of monsters hidden by a powerful illusion illegally transporting human bodies. Leo ends up captures, but Libra won’t sit idly by while someone tries to pull one over on them, and Klaus won’t sit by while someone is in danger…but there may be even more to Leo than they know.
Manga fans, Blood Blockade Battlefront deserves a look. Trigun fans, if you’re looking to fill the void, you need to pick this up. The things we loved about Trigun are back – a fast-paced story, insane action, goofy comedy, badass characters, and an interesting setting. Everything we’ve come to expect from Nightow, all done up in his signature style. This first volume sets up the story quite nicely, introducing us to a new world the quickest way possible – through total mayhem. The main characters are given strong personalities right off the bat, making it clear who they are, but leaving a lot to be explored in future volumes. Their powers are showcased (at least their very basic use), but aren’t clearly explained just yet. Klaus and Zap have a power that draws on their blood, Chain has stellar tracking skills (though it’s not clear what her exact powers are yet), and Leo…well, we know where Leo’s comes from, but what isn’t clear is the extent of his powers, and just how much they’re under his control. Even Leo doesn’t know what all they do just yet, and, if I was reading correctly, there might be another will besides Leo’s involved in controlling them. The most interesting character so far is Klaus, whose brutish appearance contrasts with the way he protects those around him. He looks rough and tough and quite intimidating, but he’s a bit of a softy underneath. A softy with a murderous temper, but still a softy. Zap is…well, he’s rather high strung, crude, and vulgar, but he’s not all bad. Chain is the most mysterious. She has a sharp, quick tongue, and she’s clearly talented at her job, but she doesn’t do a whole lot in this introductory volume, so I look forward to seeing more of what she can really do. Dark Horse has done a nice job with the book. There’s a great looking color insert on the first page, the cover design is pleasing, and that “from the creator of Trigun” burst on the front is a sticker, so you can just remove it if you’re not a fan. It appears well translated, and the sound effects are thankfully translated, and in a very unobtrusive manner. I’m not sure how long it’s going to run, but it was a mini-series, so probably no more than a few volumes.
Author: Kohta Hirano (Hellsing)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $12.99
Vintage: 2010 by Shonen Gahosha Co. in Japan, August 2011 by Dark Horse
Genre: Action, science fiction
It’s the year 1600, and blood is being spilled at Sekigahara as the Tokugawa forces battle the forces of the Toyotomi. In the midst of this battle is the warrior Shimazu Toyohisa, who decides to put forth a last ditch effort against the Tokugawa forces so his uncle’s forces can escape. After the battle he wanders the bloody battlefield, wounded and alone, but is suddenly transported to a long hallway lined with doors. A lone man sits at a desk in front of him; he fills out a form, and Toyohisa is dragged through a nearby doorway and deposited in the middle of a field. He is discovered by a pair of young elves, who recognize him as one of the mysterious beings known as Drifters, and who carry his wounded body to the ruins of a crumbling castle. He is taken in by a man who bandages his wounds. When he awakens, he finds himself face to face with a man claiming to be Nobunaga Oda, who should have died eighteen years ago. They are soon joined by Nasu Suketaka Yoichi, whose name goes back over four hundred years. Yet neither of these warriors have aged much at all in the time that passed in Toyohisa’s world, although both experienced the same strange entrance into this new world that Toyohisa did. After Toyohisa fills them in on what has happened while they’ve been gone (and presumed dead), they see signs of an attack on a nearby elf village. Toyohisa, knowing little else but how to rush headlong into battle, immediately sets out to get a piece of the action, and is followed by Nobunaga and Yoichi. The rather insane Nobunaga sets fire to the surrounding fields while Toyohisa barrels through with his sword and Yoichi picks off the stragglers with his bow. In almost no time at all, the village is taken, and these demonic men take their place, not as saviors, but as conquerors. Meanwhile, the Oct prepare for battle. The army of the Black King is on its way to a fortified wall on the border of Carneades, intent not just on destroying them, but destroying the entire world, and the Oct know they’ll never survive without the Drifters. The great strategist Hannibal Barca and his rival Scipio Africanus are with them (and a couple others who aren’t really identified, though I wonder if one might be Billy the Kid), but the Black King has a group of Ends – Joan of Arc, Hijikata Toshizo, Anastasia Romanov (the hell? She’s the first one who is ridiculously out of place since, you know, she wasn’t a warrior of any sort), and (possibly) Kuro Hogan Yoshitsune. The Black King brings out the big guns, attacking the fortress not only with his army of ghouls, but with massive dragons as well. Things are going to hell fast when an unexpected element enters the fray (who has a really annoying catch phrase that he uses at the end of almost every single line of dialog).
I have not read the Hellsing manga, so I can’t comment on how the styles compare. What I can say is that this volume has a confusing story and annoyingly repetitive artwork and character poses (meaning characters are often drawn in the same poses over and over again, which is weird for such an action packed and otherwise dynamic manga). I was never really clear on what exactly is going on in the land the Drifters are transported to. The best I could manage to work out is that the Drifters and the Ends are only labeled as such based on who they were summoned by. Technically, they’re all Drifters, if we go by the first example we are given. The Ends are only the Ends because they were summoned by the Black King. The Drifters are only Drifters because they were summoned by the Oct. Their personal opinions don’t seem to matter much, though there is one warrior who seems able to have made a choice. The Oct and the Black King are warring against each other over the fate of the world they live in. Where the elves and such fit in, I’m not entirely sure (like who’s side the natives are on). I’m going to give this one another volume to clear up some confusion, though I’m really not sure if I’ll stick with this one. I mostly picked it up because I missed out on Hellsing, and didn’t want to miss out on another title by this creator. Also because I like the idea of great warriors from history fighting together (or against each other). Speaking of great warriors in history, it helps to have a basic understanding of Japanese history reading Drifters. It’s crude, but for a quick crash course I suggest checking out Koei’s Samurai Warriors 2, which is what made me able to recognize some of the names and locations mentioned in the manga (I have a vague familiarity, but I’ve been playing that game quite a bit recently, so it was fresh in my mind). Or, you know, just wiki everyone.