Welcome to the Halloween edition of Off the Shelf with MJ & Michelle! I’m joined, once again, by Soliloquy in Blue‘s Michelle Smith.
In keeping with the holiday, Michelle and I take a look at some creepy comics from Yen Press, Tokyopop, and Manga BlackBox.
MICHELLE: Hey, did you hear that skritching noise? I think some zombies are trying to get in!
MJ: I’m safe! The workday already ate my brains. But wait, is that the howl of a werewolf?
MICHELLE: A ravenous one, no doubt! To take our minds off our impending doom, why don’t you tell me about a manga you read this week?
MJ: Okay! Well, my first selection isn’t exactly manga, though it is an East Asian comic. With Halloween approaching, I thought it was time to dig into some horror, but nothing from my to-be-reviewed shelf quite fit the bill. Fortunately, my husband is addicted to his iPad where he found a new app, just released yesterday, featuring award-winning Malaysian artist Leong Wan Kok’s From a Twisted Mind, published for iOS by a company called Manga BlackBox.
The book’s cover is immediately striking, with a surreal, psychedelic creepiness one might expect if, say, the Yellow Submarine had carried mad scientists instead of musicians. I plunked down my $3.99 based on the cover alone, which turned out to be a pretty good deal, all told. What I got for my money was a collection of seventeen short comics by Leong (sometimes known as “Puyuh”), originally published in four volumes, mostly horror (with one short volume’s worth of black & white fantasy/sci-fi stories in the back), all visually stunning.
The quality of the storytelling is uneven, as is the case of most short comic collections. The series’ first story, “Fantasy Aquarium,” (click title for screenshot) about a carnival run by vengeful fish, is delightful, and though it makes for a splendid opening, it sets the bar perhaps a bit too high for many of the comics that follow. Highlights include “Metamorphosis,” a creepy tale with a twist; “Love Virus,” about a biology student who wreaks disgusting vengeance on a backstabbing friend; and “The God of Happiness,” who is definitely not what he seems….