Author: Cho Ju-Hee
Manhwa-ga: Suh Yun-Young
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: December 2008
Synopsis: “After getting stuck with the job of cleaning her high school’s long-forgotten library, a 9th grade girl stumbles across a suspicious looking book. Simply opening the book causes her to see unspeakable horrors… does she dare read it? Inside, she could find something more terrifying than she ever imagined. Fear and insanity take hold in Korea’s first horror comic for girls.”
After being asked by her crush, Kyung-Do, Eun-Sae agrees to help clean up her school’s long-since unused library. In its collection however she discovers a book that emanates evil, not to mention has a bad case of possession. However Kyung-Do, lover of literature, has begun reading that book and it turns out that it has more to do with him than Eun-Sae originally realizes.
Disappointedly the horrorific intent of the story fell a little short. While the expected creepy cults and deformed ghostly spirits haunted the pages with sharp visuals, the pacing failed to make them as scary as intended. I did enjoy some of the more suspenseful moments, and the unfolding plot feels like it has potential, but ultimately I didn’t feel any chilling need to keep my lights on or dark corners lit after I’d finished reading it. The long, limp-hair, contorted bodies and silhouetted figures have been done before, and sadly for Reading Club, have been done better.
As a leader, Eun-Sae is a simple, though fortunately likeable character, at least in comparison to the wet-rag personality of Kyung-Do. Along with the two of them, the story also spends time following around a pair of seemingly-ghost hunters out to discover the truth behind deaths in the school that may be connected to the book. Everything seems in some way connected back to the ‘Reading Club’, a group of book collectors who had possession of the haunted book for years and have a connection to the now deceased father of Kyung-Do. All is well and good but lacks much sense of flow, with everything happening in a very orderly fashion that feels too rigid to be successfully suspenseful most of the time.
Suh Yun-Young’s artwork won’t offer anything new style-wise to manhwa-buffs, but it’s still a strong, consistent style that suits the material. With some well executed visual scenes, the look of the series hits a good mark and if not for the pacing issues, would’ve been a great companion to the genre, in particular as one targeted at female readers with its shoujo-styled appearance.
What was indefinitely a failing feature of the book however was the lettering. Despite the large, cleaned and horizontal text bubbles available, the font of the lettering was unbelievably small. Sound effects and speech bubbles containing shouts were sized in good proportion to the content but the actual speech was near impossible to read. It proves both difficult to read and distracting with so much dead space remaining. While the print quality and additional presentation, such as the cover’s design, were nicely handled, the lettering alone would be reason enough for me to rethink any future UDON manhwa purchase unless I can see that the font was handled with considerable difference.
Overall this first volume of Reading Club didn’t leave too much of an impression but does manage to set a pretty decent foundation for future instalments. While the plot as it stands now feels stereotypical, I still withhold at least a little curiousity as to its eventual full-disclosure. Despite its flaws, I’d still call this a recommended read for fans of horror, to see if this ghoulish story of haunted books and broken necks appeals, though iffy production values and an uninspired plot may break a reader’s interest in continuing past this first book.
Review written May 2, 2009 by Lissa Pattillo
Book purchased from independant hobby store, The Batter’s Box