I got the chance to review these two comics that, though very different in look and feel, were both about contemporary urban worlds that exist on a border between the real grit of the city and the demonic grit of a world of monsters.
Blood Blockade Battlefront
The premise here is: New York has been interposed with Jerusalem’s Lot, meaning there’s a demon city from hell right underneath the actual city. So there’s some nice über urban borderlands action, and we rely on those with special gifts to protect us in this city.
This is a witty and excitingly action packed manga, with a compellingly motley crew of super powered freaks that keep balance in the city. Really fun personalities in this group, and well-drawn battles. The most gripping scene in this volume was the epic gaming session, taking place against a Cthulhu-like monster in warped time, so we never know how much time has really passed, or what the game really consists of, only that it gets more and more insanely tense and complex as time goes by. There’s a cute moment at the end when the more Chiba-esque characters parallel the gaming monster with the author himself, who wants to get this issue out of the way so he can game more. The cutesy meta factor of that was a lot of fun.
Fun stuff, and big ‘splosions.
Also, guess what: the vampires are actually powerful and scary! And evil and conniving! As well as kinda sexy. Huzzah!
You know, I’m fine with comics that are dark, violent, scary, even nasty if it serves the purpose of the story. I also enjoy seeing what makes a masked vigilante tick, and I like it if my superheroes are snarky and flawed. Heck, sometimes it’s even fun to read about “heroes” that are barely better than the “villains” themselves–Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are some of the best anti-heroes in that vein, and so is the Dark Knight.
However, gratuitous violence, nastiness just for the sake of nasty, blood just for the ooky factor, I’m not a big fan of. I want story, good writing, and characters I actually want to be involved in, POV-wise. From what I can tell so far of Victories, the writing style is crude enough that I lost interest in the supposedly-inwardly-tortured “good guy,” and the bloody and sexual violence of the villain wasn’t enough to snag my interest back. Maybe it gets better in future issues–I can only hope so. But if I want a tough city with costumed super-villains terrorizing the citizens, with a masked anti-hero barely able to cope, I’ll just go read Long Halloween or Dark Victory again, thanks.
Having said that, the art is pretty interesting in Victories–broad brush strokes, deep bold color, and beautifully angled outlines. There are two pages in particular, where we are in our anti-hero’s head at home that is a gorgeously dark interposing of scribbled journal pages, image, and inner monologue. It’s actually kind of a dark version of Impressionism in many panels, which is quite appealing.
Bottom Line: I recommend Blood Blockade Battlefront, especially if you are already a fan or you like manga. It’s also a good one for a manga-beginner. I don’t particularly recommend Victories. Yet. Ask me again when there’s a full trade collection out, maybe I will revise my opinion.