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Review: Blood Blockade Battlefront (Vol. 03)

Blood Blockade Battlefront (Vol. 03)

Manga-ka: Yasushiro Nightow
Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: Older Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2012

Synopsis: “Traffic in New York has never been a picnic, but with the Big Apple destroyed and rebuilt as the dimensional-gate madhouse known as Jerusalem’s Lot, gridlock is a little more complicated. When the city’s forty million jailed paranormal criminals are about to be set loose by a monster truck – literally, a monster truck – the superagents of Libra may have to contend with a rush hour of apocalyptic proportions!”

Continuing his visually exciting visit to Jerusalem’s Lot, Yashuhiro Nightow brings us another actionpacked volume of Blood Blockade Battlefront. Filled with memorable characters and a cheerful attitude, one finds themselves having a fantastic time as Lovecraftian monsters cascade about them, populating the bars, tourist traps and houses of illrepute that make up the remains of New York City. The previous two volumes were quick, fun reads, and this third one delivers more of the same as Leonard Watch goes about his everyday life as a member of a super awesome secretive organization that uses blood-based fighting styles as a weapon against rogue demons. If that last sentence made any sense to you, or if you don’t care if it did because it sounds awesome, this may be the manga for you!

Leonard makes for a fun Shonen Jump-like lead, despite this title being published by Dark Horse (like Gate 7 from CLAMP, this is a Jump Square title in Japan). He’s a well meaning older brother doing his best to bring in the cash, yet being far more laidback than the manic leads of most shonen manga. This allows for the diverse personalities of his teammates to shine, from the super tough yet gentlemanly Klaus to the aloof Chain the invisible werewolf lady. Keeping track of the wacky cast can be a little confusing, but Nighthow’s distinct designs and handy cast listing at the front of the book help with the long wait between volumes.

Nighthow’s tone is similar to previous works, with silly characters who endear you with their hijinks quickly going into over the top battles with some rather realistic looking gore and violence. My favourite chapter in this installment was Stephen Starphase’s dinner party. Nighthow created a fun mood with his acquaintances having a lovely party, that quickly became something else entirely, highlighting the atmosphere of Jersalem’s Lot. Much like the real New York, it is a city of wonders and everyday life, but also one where danger lurks around the corner constantly. In this case, the danger is a tad more of the demonic sort.

Nighthow’s artwork is where the title shines. The visual flow and layout is similar to Trigun, though perhaps a bit easier to follow. Nighthow has fun with the variety of monsters populating the haunted Big Apple, yet also gives us cute monkeys and awesomely detailed literal monster trucks. Anyone else would of turned in the same plot as a generic battle manga with occasional winks to fans, but Nighthow’s visual trappings make it a treat. Nowhere else does a pretty boy – whose bloodstream is inhabited by an inhuman psychopath who seems kinda friendly punching a giant car-eating monster truck piloted by their crazy ex-girlfriend – look this visually immersive. One finds oneself looking back at favourite panels and admiring Nightow’s design work. Normally a squeamish one for horror titles, Nighthow’s art and the humourous mood make this very palateable for me, and a must read everytime a new volume is released.

Like previous volumes, Blood Blockade Battlefront is presented in a pocket size. Dark Horse has provided colour inserts on newsprint featuring some of the cast members, adding some extra value to their presentation. The backcover provides some great extra character art, while Chain steals the spotlight on the books cover. While not overly special in presentation, these books look great with your Trigun collection, taking a similar design approach.

With only three volumes out and a slow release schedule matching Japan’s, Blood Blockade Battlefront is easy to get into, even if you haven’t read the first volume. It’s very much so an art focused book, that pleasantly also has fun characterization and some creative writing choices. Yet it’s also one that focuses on imaginative, over the top elements. This may turn off some readers, but will endear it greatly to others. If you enjoy fun shonen romps and ridiculous, 90’s style anime designs and character attacks, this is definitely worth checking out as another solid work from Dark Horse Manga.

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Book bought from Strange Adventures

Andre Paploo

About the Author:

André is a long time comics and animation fan who draws assorted webcomics like Jeepers, and designed the mascots for the Maritime provinces' anime convention, Animaritime. He has a scary anime collection including about 900 dvd’s and tapes, and has been reading comics for 15 years. Somewhere in there he got an English degree, but spend most of my time now reading comics and fantasy novels. He's a fan of cheesy anime, Disney, X-men stuff, Transformers, and CLAMP.

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