Manhwa-ga: JinJun Park
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2010
Synopsis: “Irel and Lamia are back on the hunt for the chrism bottles – that is, until Lamia decides that it’s time to part ways. Memories of a solitary past have given her cause to keep her distance from humans, but is she really prepared to go it alone? Meanwhile, Detective Chris’s conspiracy theories lead him to the heart of a secret society called “Crossline.” Can their leader, Ian, truly be who he claims?”
Rolling in with another volume of insane, fast-paced action, mildly incoherent conspiracy theories and zombies created by the blood of religious icons, JinJun Park’s Raiders offers more of the same thrills. Slightly held back by poor reproduction choices, it never the less offers a decent mix of art, though might not be suitable to mass market tastes.
Yen Press’s presentation is something that is fairly standard in terms of fan expectations, with a colour insert and digest sized format, yet didn’t quite work in the series favour. Having read previous volumes, it’s become clear that this series would of benefited in using a larger trim such as Sugarholic’s. Park’s line work is very delicate, using light shadows to add some contrast, yet is sometimes hard to distinguish due to the blurry lines that result from presenting it at such a small scale. This seemed less noticeable in previous volumes, and there are indeed many pages that manage to avoid blurry lines, but there’s enough issues with the printing that I hope Yen Press pays more attention in subsequent volumes. Hopefully, should Park’s work succeed and more of their works are translated, Yen Press will opt to use a larger trim on those releases. Nevertheless, despite all this, the presentation is otherwise excellent, and the artwork remains enjoyable.
While the art is mildly compromised, the story is quite compelling. One might get somewhat confused by the assorted organizations creeping in on Irel and Lamia, as sinister priests, international cults and the oft required mysterious persona employed by the Vatican pop up. There’s a fair amount of information to take in, including some bits about Chris’s past, but the series shines by focusing in on Lamia’s tragic past instead. There are some fairly shocking revelations, including a gruesome scene that happens mostly off panel as Lamia dodges Nazis in World War II. Park presents some scenes that would of made shocking, horrific bits in a Japanese publication, holding back just enough to let Yen Press sneak it past with an Older Teen rating, perhaps due to differences in content regulation in Korea. Even if it happens off camera, the series doesn’t shy away from depicting just how horrific Lamia’s existence can be, something which may be off putting for some readers. Park does a lot to humanize her plight, yet also shows why Lamia is one many should fear, something that foreshadows her choices regarding questing with Irel.
It’s these intriguing characterizations that offset the horror throughout. Lamia is a stoic fighter who does her best to help humanity while simultaneously being their predator. Irel is over eager, unfazed by his new existence and closely bonding with Lamia in a mildly Stockholm syndrome way. And Chris is a maniacal human monster with several surprises up his sleeve that he dumps on his partner and the professor’s daughter. Park’s characters have taken on stronger shapes, guiding us along the occasionally unpredictable plot through some fairly grim moments. The narrative continues to build as Park adds more cards to the situation while the artwork’s skillful body language and facial expressions make for a stark, yet emotional result that would appeal to fans of Death Note’s Takeshi Obata.
The introduction of Vatican flunky and would-be Messiah Ian into the mix ends the volume on a fairly blasphemous note, just in case we hadn’t found all the cannibalism, zombies and gore wacky enough. Park’s spirited, fast paced comic certainly doesn‘t shy away from violence or controversy, hopping from one crazy plot element to the next. These aspects are perhaps slightly more edgy due to Korea having a larger population of Christians than Japan, outnumbering even traditionally Asian religions like Buddhists. This aspect makes Raiders slightly more interesting then the window-dressing crosses and strange representations of Christianity one often encounters in manga. Even if it’s entertainingly nutty in its references to Christianity, it’s clear that Raiders at least has a better idea of the history and concepts involved, and the context makes it slightly more daring.
Despite the issues with presentation, Yen Press’s publication of Raiders should be sought out by those who enjoy their manga very much insane and don’t mind checking out non-Japanese works. Even with its light rendering, Parks inks are solid, with a quality many artists strive for in their delicacy. In keeping itself moderately gory, it opens itself up to a slightly wider readership, making it a decent choice for those who’d like a step between Shonen Jump titles and seinen fare like Berserk and Gantz. Filled with an intriguing cast and an excellent sense of pacing, one can overlook the slight overload of ideas and have a fun time with the title. Hopefully Park will manage to continue to balance the elements well and deliver on the promise established so far in the title.