Authors: Avi Arad & Junichi Fujisaku
Manga-ka: YaSung Ko
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2011
Synopsis: “Wrongly executed for crimes he didn’t commit, a former detective is given a second chance at life. To earn that chance, though, the man now known as Ash must use the supernatural abilities with which he has been infused to prevent the deaths of other innocents. But is Ash willing to dedicate himself to helping others, or is his thirst for vengeance against those who destroyed his life and his loved ones too powerful to ignore?”
The Innocent is another of Yen Press’s collaborative pieces, taking the story of author Avi Arad and pairing it with the stylish artwork of Korean artist, Yasung Ko. While the two elements don’t mesh together without obvious seams, the final result ends up working better than many similar projects from the company to date, delivering plenty of action and eye-candy.
The whole story – or at least this particular portion of it – is told in a single book, but the pacing is pretty erratic. The beginning rushes through the introduction of its two leads, Ash and Angel. Ash is wrongly put to death for crimes he didn’t commit and Angel is assigned to be his guardian-of-sorts for the recently deceased’s newly appointed task of defending other wrongly accused people on Earth. Their repertoire is quickly established – Ash does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and Angel follows along complaining about it. From here on the story comparatively takes it time as it introduces the side characters who make up Ash’s first ‘job’, which also happens to connect to his own death.
The gist of the linear plot is a young woman has become the target of killers when she comes in possession of evidence that can simultaneously condemn them and prove her brother’s innocence. The siblings’ story works as both an emotional parallel to Ash’s – who struggles to save his abused sister’s life – and as a way to introduce the characters relevant to Ash’s death, notably his lawyer, Rain, and the crime lord who signed his death warrant.
Ash’s disposition is sometimes too dour for his own good. He doesn’t seem particularly angry or interested or… anything, really, save for a few brief circumstantial moments. His blah-personality is thankfully countered by Angel’s crankiness and spurts of compassion, plus the intensity of the side characters who have to fight to survive the madness around them.
One of the most interesting characters in the story is a madman named Whirl. Whirl is effectively creepy as heck and has a lot of page presence. This makes him a good contrast to Ash and a great rival, especially when Whirl becomes obsessive about facing Ash in between his sadistic killing sprees. He and Ash obviously have a deep-rooted personal hatred for one another, yet it feels too strong to be the result of simply what’s in this book. Meanwhile, Angel has a couple side characters he interacts with in the afterlife who also offer glimpses to more story than we get. Things like this make the end of the book feel especially rushed. The climax tries really hard to work off tension that doesn’t feel like it’s been earned, most of all with Ash versus Whirl. And then it ends.
The artwork in The Innocent is fantastic, albeit a little stiff at points where an eye-catching illustration is put in favour of a coherent scene. It’s neat seeing art by Yasung Ko again. I haven’t read a work by them since Tokyopop’s releases of Under the Glass Moon. It’s come a long way since then, notably Yasung Ko’s inking for which they favour very strong outlines. I really like her character designs which aren’t tied to any specific archetypes. Her main character is attractive, but masculine and bruting all the same. The bad guy is creepy and potentially nightmare inducing with his expressions, and the character Angel definitely succeeds at having no specifically-evident gender, exuding obvious traits of both (Angel could definitely use a good meal or two though, that much is clear). The artwork matches the story really well, weaving together violent modern day police investigations and crime with otherworldly abilities and effect heavy battles. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all the little details. Some of them look painstakingly rendered, which can be both a good and bad thing in a story like this when it can make some pages look overwhelming.
As has been the case in most of Yen Press’s east-meets-west works, I was more won over by the artwork than the story. There remained that feeling of disconnect between that two which was indicative they weren’t the invention of the same person. Still, The Innocent is one of the best of them I’ve read – second only at this point to the nearly flawless, Soulless. Unfortunately because so much seemed rushed or skimmed, The Innocent reads more like a prologue or teaser than an effective standalone. As a one-volume collection however, it’s not too big a deal. The strength of the artwork coupled with some strong individual scenes made it a mostly satisfying and exciting reading experience worth having at least once.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures