Manga-ka: Tsutomu Nihei
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: February 2010
Synopsis: “Searching for the key to save a world beyond hope. Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO-an island city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean-in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus. He’s not the only one looking for her, though… Agents of the Public Health Service’s Compulsory Execution Unit are also in hot pursuit. Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun!!”
Biomega makes for a different kind of a read. Light on the words and heavy on the tone, it’s refreshing in itself to read a story about an apocalyptic-future that doesn’t stop to monologue its own back-story every five panels. The story flourishes in this break from tradition and does so with enough style that readers will feel they’ve found something well worth its shiny production values, even in light of a fairly shallow plot.
Biomega follows Zoichi Kanoe, a young man with a sullen disposition and a status of hardcore. He’s been served the task of retrieving a young woman whose genetics could spell both the world’s salvation and its destruction. Living in a time where most of the Earth has been levelled, and now lays littered with humans infected with a disease of alien origin (ie: zombie-flu from space), Zoichi’s arsenal includes a supped-up motorcycle, classic black body suit and a holographic communications assistant in the guise of a young woman.
This book is all about atmosphere. The dialogue is sparse and the story relies on the darkly washed artwork to set its tone. The artist uses jagged lines and a sketch-like appearance with their inking to give the world a real sense of texture. Movements are rendered sharply, with emphasis on speed and motion. The artist has clear care to detail and mood when executing these situations, be it a split-second gunshot or an exploding mansion.
Adding novelty to nuance, Zoichi is soon inadvertently joined by perhaps the most unlikely of allies – a machine-gun toting grizzly bear. Bound to be any readers’ most memorable feature, he serves the role as the young woman’s protector, as well as being the series’ momentary shock-factor. He charges a much needed life into a story that otherwise may be too subtle for its own good sometimes. Besides, in how many books can you read about a gun-wielding bear trying to desperately cling to a motorcycle careening through the air?
As a reading experience this book goes by very quickly, or at least has the potential to. The limited dialogue means readers aren’t required to linger on any page too long. This makes for both positive and negative results. The ability to set one’s own pace flipping through the poignant action sequences is an added bonus, and while the page-flipping speed does shorten the length, it also garners a near-cinematic effect. On the other hand, the sensation of a short book does also leave something to be desired in the quantity department and makes the lacking depth of the story itself, which though otherwise rarely feels a burden to the plot, feel that much more empty.
Biomega’s gritty fight scenes and simple but fairly compelling plot make this first volume a solid introduction to the series. But, it’s the light discourse and resulting ambience that really makes this a distinctive experience and worth a read. Viz Media also presents the book in a sleek large-cut size format with great design work that’s bound to catch more than a few eyes. Though Biomega doesn’t trend any new ground (with exception perhaps of the walking-talking-shooting bear), it still pulls off the zombie apocalypse with its own unique style and class.