Saturday, December 22, 2012

Manhwa Review: Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries Volume 1

Now here's a title I wasn't expecting to talk about today, somehow (I think I saw it as an ad on a webcomic) I found a website that Seven Seas had set up where they were going to upload a few pages each week of this book until it's release and I read along and enjoyed it quite well (although I just found out that they only had license to have it up as a webcomic for a year and that expired earlier in the month). However I thought they were missing the last chapter/half a chapter since A) the page count number didn't match up and B) it was a rather awkward place to end since the criminal had been identified but not caught (and I wasn't going to review just part of a volume). Today however I was in a bookstore and caught site of the book so I decided to see how much was left and I discovered that in fact the entire first volume had been published online, the remaining pages were devoted to a one-shot. So this is now totally fair game for me to review, good thing since I was really wondering how to classify this one and when I'd get around to it otherwise.

Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries Volume 1 story by Hey-Jin Jeon and art by Kiha Lee

Summary: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Newton is a young lady who is more interested in writing her mystery stories (which she's become rather well known for) than dealing with some of her more tedious social duties but when she stumbles upon a crime scene during one of these events she can't help but investigate a bit herself. There she discovers that what looks like a simple suicide is in fact a murder and drags her fiancee Edwin into her investigation to solve what the police don't even know is there. 

The Good: While you can't exactly figure out the mystery yourself from all the clues (something which happens very rarely for me in any mystery regardless of medium however) the characters are rather meticulous explaining the details later so it feels like a well-thought out mystery that's complicated enough to remain unnoticed if you're not looking for a mystery but still within the range of what a clever person could solve. Lizzie is a spunky heroine and, while not highly original, is likable enough and her banter with Edwin worked well (although the story dropped a few hints that there's more to him than we/Lizzie know and I just hope the story won't take forever to address that). It's a first volume so it's rough around the edges at parts but it's completely grabbed me and I would quite like to read more and see where the series ends up going.  

The Bad: As alluded to earlier, this volume ends in a really awkward place and has the page room for more story and I much would have rather had this story completely wrapped up in one volume. Unless the story was just a bit too long for one volume and they decided to delay it to stretch over two volumes instead of having it carry over just a bit and then start a new story, that would actually make sense. That is my biggest complaint and, well, an unsatisfying ending is a rather large complaint especially with the two volumes (I don't know if the second one is the finale or if the series is on-going) being published six months apart. Pretty much everything else that can be called a flaw (not yet rounded characters, character interaction also comes off as a bit flat at times) can be easily explained by the fact that this is a first volume, it's a really solid first installment all things considered.

The Art: Ms. Silverman on ANN has already talked about the details in the art with more authority than I have so go read her review for that and I'll just talk more generally. And the art is pleasant, I was actually surprised to hear that this was a manhwa because previously the art I've seen from manhwa has been much more stylized (in different ways though) and this just looked like a webcomic that has more shojo roots than some.

So I give this 4 stars out of 5 and fully plan on buying this and the next volume when I get a chance, especially since it looks like this is the end of the free preview on the site (which makes sense since it was more than generous, just wish there had been a little note saying "End of Volume 1" somewhere)