Friday, January 25, 2013

Manga Review: Heroman (volume one)

Another manga that I won in a contest recently, this time Alexander Hoffman of Manga Widget was giving away a few volumes of various Vertical Inc series and I obviously ended up with the first volume of Heroman. I was familiar with the title thanks to the anime (which I think technically came first) but held off watching it back then since people were predicting that it would get picked up and dubbed fast and I prefer to watch shows set in the US with dubs. Well, no license yet (it's still streaming on Crunchyroll for those interested) so there's no point in waiting any longer and I've never read any of Stan Lee's works, although I would love to know how much of the writing here is his or if he provided the basic plot points and scenarios and if someone else is responsible for adding in the details and putting it all together.

Heroman (volume one) by Stan Lee, Bones, and Tamon Ohta

Summary: Joey Jones is a sweet, hardworking boy who lives with his grandmother and is decidedly not one of the cool kids at school. It seems that even getting his hands on a transforming robot and helping save the town several times over isn't helping with that but it's certainly catching the eye of the girl he likes.  

The Good: While formulaic the story did manage to move at a much quicker pace than I was expecting and it was nice to see that the girl Joey is crushing on, Lina, already seems to like him back (especially since it's more common for it to take the girl a while to notice the nerdy guy in American fiction). The side characters get a reasonable amount of screentime and I was impressed at how well the story makes the eponymous Heroman feel, well, not just like a robot, especially since he doesn't talk at all. 

The Bad: This book just didn't grab me at all. The pacing seems a bit odd, like it's trying to cram in down time for the characters while still moving the plot forward as fast as it can and it's a balancing trick that doesn't quite work. Also, after a full volume of characters, many of which with a lot of page time, I just can't care about any of them since they all still feel so flat. Even Joey, who fares better than the rest of the cast, is still only a mash of character traits without any reasons behind them to make me care. This could obviously change quickly depending on how the story progresses but, well, after this volume I have no motivation to pick up the next one. 

The Art: Man, Joey has one of the most feminine looking designs for a guy I've seen in quite a while, heck if he was a girl that might've made the series a bit more interesting since that would have been a little more different. Regardless, there's nothing really special about the art here. It has a nice level of detail and that artist (whom I think is Ohta but I'm not 100% sure) knows how to use screentones well so everything looks fine, but it just doesn't have that special thing that makes the art stand out and grab me. In that respect it feels rather generic, maybe it works better in the anime where it's full color.

So a 2.5 out of 5 for this volume and I'll probably take the anime off of my to-watch list now as well (or at least file it under "if you and a friend really need something to snark at this might work" which isn't a good place to be filed). Maybe this would work better for a younger audience who hasn't seen every story trope out there done to death already, there's no age rating on it but I'd say it's probably 10+ or maybe 12+, but that's not me so I guess this series just isn't for me.