Black Lagoon Vol. 1
- Words: Rei Hiroe
- Art: Rei Hiroe
- Publisher: Viz Media
- Price: $12.99
- Release Date: Aug 8, 2008
Posted by Lee Newman on Jul 17, 2009
A high energy ultra violent bit of pulpy fun. The setting is a gutted PT boat that is home to four mercenaries who promise to get anything anywhere.
Imagine if Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and John Woo made a movie together. Now imagine that all three directors, their crew and entire cast were on Crystal Meth. That is what this book is like.
What’s even better is that the book is unafraid to admit to its influences. The backmatter even mentions John Woo and Douglas Winter in a footnote about the female lead Revy Two Gun.
We open with the crew of the Black Lagoon in mid mission, retrieving a disc in the possession of Rock. He is a salaryman that by the end of this first chapter has become a member of the mercenary group through a double cross enacted by his employers. The team battles Triads, Russian Mobs, Drug Lords, and a particularly inspired chamber maid.
Roberta, the Maid, and Revy are the most interesting characters here. They are two extremes of the Bride from Kill Bill. Revy is all action, foul language and sex appeal; while Roberta is glib righteousness. The action between the two femme fatales is the highlight of the book; well, if you discount the inventive use of some torpedoes here and there.
Rock ends up being a much need dose of conscience for the mercs. He tones down the gun for hire attitude of the group and brings them down to humanity when needed. It would be a saccharine conceit, if the action and villains weren’t so over the top.
All of this from a creator who pleads for the reader to stick around. If not for the story, then for the promise of drinks and friendship. That kind of reckless personality permeates every panel of this easy to read volume. There is no great profound message here, no deep study into the nature of Japanese culture. Hiroe is clever enough to leave the forced humor that often derails manga for a weird short in the end. This is a neat trick, which will leave traditional manga fans feeling comfortable, while broadening its appeal to a wider action audience. The action is so thick, you can almost imagine Jason Statham getting in drag to be involved in a live action version.
The art is standard manga fare. Round, under rendered characters lose out to highly detailed handguns, helicopters, and, of course, the eponymous boat. Lines burst into rain to display the break neck pace of the fighting. Cute faces are kept to a minimum - reaching for that audience - this is a book clearly aimed at a more adult audience but keeping its manga charm for the hardcore fans.
Black Lagoon is a testosterone fueled action romp. It is relentless and highly entertaining with a debut volume that gives it all a great start.
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