East Meets West in Komacon

Komacon

tumblr_mqx91nSAdp1qj97xmo1_1280Author(s): Rick Veitch, Ben McCool, Colleen Doran, Beau Smith, Joe Keating, Anina Bennett
Illustrator(s):
 In-Hyuk Lee, Hae Mi Jang, Jun-Hyuk Choi, Rock-He Kim, Chan-Hyuk Lee, Jung-Guen Yoon
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Publisher:
Image Comics
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mythology, Graphic Novel

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: High
GoodReads | Amazon

So, the blurb on this one doesn’t really say much. I studied abroad in South Korea when I was in college and absolutely loved it so when I saw that this was a compilation of work from there I figured, hey! That could be cool.

Here’s what the publisher has to say about it:

Six exceptional young artists from South Korea join forces with six outstanding veteran American writers to create a cross-cultural anthology of spectacular breadth!

From what the interior introduction says there is this illustration program in South Korea that brings together artists and teams them up with Western writers in an effort to showcase Korean talent. I don’t know why they don’t use Korean writers, too. Honestly, I don’t think that the Western writers brought nearly as much to the table as the Korean artists did. At least in some o of the stories.

That said, it’s important to note that the stories were not evenly matched at all. There were three that were actually pretty good, two with great artwork but weird stories, and one with good artwork and a terrible story. For some reason, the last one is the one they put on the cover. It’s also the first story in the compilation. Honestly, I almost didn’t continue reading because it was so stupid. The plot to Ragno-Jak made little sense. The dialogue was full of vulgarity. The lead character was a monkey who threw shit at people and everything. But the artwork was pretty solid and the strange characters were pretty well developed. Smoker and Bloodeye both had pretty great artwork, too, but the stories were pretty forgetable. Looking back I don’t really remember what they were about just that Smoker looked fabulous.

So I want to focus on the three really awesome stories in the book.

Fire Dog by Colleen Doran and Hae Mi Jang

This book had a very interesting choice in artistic style. While some of the others decided to be all kinds of colorful, this story was in black and  white and seemed very raw. It told a sort of mythological story about a blind girl living in a village who was sent out to feed ‘the wolves’ (who are actually nomads and their crazed victims) in the woods who capture and kill people – often children. She meets a mystical man while out there and tell shim that she was caught once and that her eyes were glued open by the nomads as a religious practice. She was guided home by a dog but the dog was killed because her people don’t trust them. They are all preparing for the coming of some ancient diety but the villagers treat the man with fear and disrespect to which he tells them he is the deity and the only reason he hasn’t killed them all is the compassion of the poor, blind girl who no one cares for and treats like crap. Because she still sees something in humanity and she keeps helping people. It’s fantastic.

Warshaw by Beau Smith and Rock-He Kim

My favorite story, though, was probably Warshaw. It’s the story of a peasant boy who was chosen to be taken away by the military and who refused to cry. They murdered his mother and when he refused to go they instead forced him to become an experimented upon arena fighter. The boy never cries as he’s altered and changed and over the years develops a relationship with the man who enhances him and his son, Warshaw. When the man dies, Warshaw also becomes an arena fighter and together the two fight as brothers for their freedom. The government, however, will never give them that freedom but they dupe the government leaders into refusing them that honor on national television and in time wage a rebellion to defeat the government and stop the tyrannical oppression.

Rebel Flight by Anina Bennett and Jung-Guen Yoon

Lastly, you have Rebel Flight which was the last story in the book. It’s a very diluted, subtle art style and very clean. It’s about a boy who ran from a desert prison camp for humans and was rescued by a girl who had no reason to risk herself or the other human resistance memebers. It’s told from the girl’s point of view sometime in the future as she narrates his humble beginnings and how they would never have known then what sort of man he would become. Once she saved him, the resistance stole an alien craft and together went back to the camp to take out some of their overlords and they go on to wage a rebellion that would save their people. It’s a nice story for them to end on because it’s hopeful and it ends on a really high note. It’s cute. I’d read an entire series based on this comic hands down.

All right, so, is it worth getting?

I mean, the three stories I outlined were worth reading and the artwork for Smoker was pretty cool. It was a pretty awesome style. So, I don’t know. If you think that’s worth $10-12 then, sure. You could get it. I’d pass but then again I’ve already read it so there’s not really much to get me to go back to it. The stories end. They don’t continue. So I don’t need to reference back to them. But to support some cool Korean artists? Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s worth it.

Final Thoughts: Komacon is a neat but short 88-page compilation of one-shot comics put together by teams of South Korean artists and Western, veteran comic book writers. There are a few good stories worth checking out but it’s an otherwise probably passable book. I’d drop $10-12 on an actual TPB for a more established series instead, personally. But if you’re interested in checking out some up-and-coming South Korean talent then it’s worth a look.

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