Manhwa-ga: MiSun Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2012
Synopsis: “On a whim, Aron Cornwall decides he wants to live a pirate’s life of thrills, sailing on the high seas in search of distant lands and buried treasure. And when you are the son of a duke, you generally get what you want. Accompanied by his reluctant manservant, Robin, Aron scrounges up a crew—including a cook who cannot cook, a transvestite assassin, and a boy (girl?) genius—and sets off on the craziest pirate adventure you’ve ever seen!”
I’m not overly familiar with the works of MiSun Kim, and if this series is an example of their work I don’t want to be. Ugh. Aron’s Absurd Armada is a yon-koma (4-panel) gag style comic series where the jokes are frequent and the story is virtually nonexistent. Most of the gags were weak or in poor taste and it felt overall like I was reading really bad roleplay logs from when I was in junior high school.
There are a few good things I can say about Aron’s Absurd Armada, so I’m gonna get those out of the way first so this isn’t quite as depressing. It is in full colour so telling the characters apart, which is a common problem in the four panel style comic, is no issue at all. Somewhere near the middle of this volume things made sense for a while and it was actually funny. After more characters were introduced we weren’t subjected to endless pointless gags anymore and the ‘story’ actually progressed a little. Mercedes – a cross-dressing, eccentric hairdresser with seemingly magical hair powers – is actually a pretty interesting character.
Now it’s on to the bad. I’ll try not to begin ranting but I make no promises. At about 80 pages in I realized the characters didn’t know who they were and I was just reading disembodied text bubbles. The bubbles were attached to characters, but those characters could have been anyone. The words coming from them were so situationally convenient that they had no personality to them at all. That’s when I began to think, how is this tripe published? Furthermore, the traits which each character had to define them were randomly switched between characters or shared between characters in the name of a running gag. They’ve occasionally forgotten they’re hungry, forgotten they’re pirates, forgotten they’re on a boat or not on a boat, and I can’t tell what’s actually happening from fantasy.
MiSun Kim seams to have a slight vendetta with noses but other than that the art is pretty clean and consistent the whole way through. The chibi bodies and fat heads you see on the front cover are not a representation of how the actual comic looks, but they do draw all the little pictures in the corner of each page in that style. Backgrounds are lacking, which is normal for a four panel comic, and there’s a considerable amount of toning used to set the mood. I’m not sure I’d be so happy with it if it were in black and white, as I don’t think I’d be able to tell mustache-less Aron from spike-haired Ronnie, but everyone else is pretty distinct in their designs.
Some of the pages are four panel style with an occasionally relevant little doodle in the bottom right corner. Some are full page comics, and some are so slashed up with things happening crammed into them I can’t tell what they are. The difference between speech bubbles and thought bubbles appears to be different variations of speed lines, but sometimes what looks like a thought bubble is responded to. I think they’re being used as facial expression bubbles? It’s as if what is being thought but not said out loud is being shown on their face, and thus responded to. Really, I’m probably grasping at straws to make sense out of it at this point.
The internet tells me Aron’s Absurd Armada was once a web comic and as a web comic in its youth I can forgive how terrible it is as a whole. Having said that, if it continues to be as pointless in the next issue and none of the possible plot points brought up in the second half come to anything, I wash my hands of this series all together. Getting through this one was tough; wish me the best for volume two!
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes