Comic, Vol. 6 | By Ha Sihyun | Published by Yen Press – Volume five ended with turmoil for both protagonist and aspiring manhwa-ga Alice Song and her love interest, established manhwa-ga Patrick Kang. Having not quite escaped the clutches of manipulative queen bee Daria, Patrick lied to Alice about it, only to be shocked by a furious slap in the face from Alice who (unbeknownst to him) spotted them together in the physics classroom at the very worst time possible. Volume six opens with the reintroduction of the infamous piano room “pervert” whom Alice caught dancing half-naked back in volume four. As he returns to classes after an injury, Alice is shocked to discover that her “pervert” happens to be Neil Moon–student council president and one of the most popular boys in school. With Patrick out of school for a book signing, Alice finds herself easily distracted by the prettiness of “pervert” Neil who has, incidentally, decided she is the love of his life and manages to obtain the seat next to her in class. Unfortunately it turns out that Neil and Patrick are actually best friends unknowingly in love with the same girl, a fact that does not become clear to either of them until the end of the volume.
The oddest thing about this series is that it seems to have entirely forgotten its premise. In volumes 4 & 5, the story began to stray from Alice’s adventures as an artist into Alice’s adventures in love, and in this volume that transformation officially becomes complete. Alice does not appear to experience a single thought regarding her career as a manhwa-ga anywhere in this entire volume, rendering Comic just another high school romance at this point. It’s a nice high school romance, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still depressing to see what drew me into the story in the first place basically eradicated in favor of something I could obtain easily just by leafing through the latest issue of Shojo Beat.
Despite the story’s recent shift, it’s very hard to imagine abandoning the series. The characters are still appealing, the art is still pretty, and even the tired old love triangle feels rather fresh and fun in manhwa-ga Ha SiHyun’s hands, especially now that unbelievable über-bitch Daria seems to have completely fallen out of the picture. The drama in this volume is much more balanced than in the last, and it’s nice to see both Alice and Patrick interact with Neil, who brings out the most attractive qualities in each of them. Also fun is watching Neil and Patrick describe Alice to each other in such completely contrasting terms there is nothing to indicate that they could possibly be describing the same girl. What’s challenging about this, of course, is that it’s hard to decide who to root for as Alice’s chosen love. Judging from their descriptions, Neil sees all of Alice’s beauty while Patrick sees all of her flaws, but which of these scenarios is the best for Alice? On one hand, it’s certainly endearing to see Patrick obviously crushing over traits he claims to find maddening, and one could argue that his more “realistic” view of Alice makes his love for her more real. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see Neil appreciating the best in Alice and his easygoing manner is a nice complement to Alice’s excitable nature.
Unfortunately, with Alice’s artistic dreams languishing in the abyss, both of the male love interests are now more compelling than she is, and this is something I really hope will turn around in the next volume. Alice’s spunk and ambition were a great part of her initial appeal and she’s just not the same without them. And no, repeatedly shouting at boys does not actually constitute “spunk.”
Though Comic remains an enjoyable manhwa romance, my heart longs for the return of its original focus on the life of a young manhwa artist–a hope that seems reasonable considering that the series is still called “Comic.” It can’t just be me. Right?