Review by: Clive Owen
Author: Arvid Nelson
Genre: Horror/Action (Graphic Novel)
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: OT (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
The demons are coming! The demons are coming!
Having read and re-read Arvid Nelson’s Rex Mundi, I somehow knew what to expect from the first volume of Hellgate: London. Never mind the fact that this manga was inspired by the somewhat-enjoyable-yet-considerably-flawed PC game of the same title … this is a horror-action manga that’s ripe with demon-slaying action and a secret legacy that unfolds in true Arvid Nelson fashion. In short, I came to expect a rich tale true to its genre.
While not a traditional manga that is read in the traditional manner, Hellgate: London’s first volume looks like a manga thanks to artist J.M (Jeong Mo Yang of TOKYOPOP’s wonderful Star Trek manga). J.M does a great job of displaying emotion and tension as well as action. One of the aspects of Nelson’s work in not so much the action but the drama and mystery that made Rex Mundi and Zero Killer such interesting reads and there’s certainly no shortage of drama and mystery in this manga.
The story introduces John Fowler and his family living in London in the year 2020. John is a middle-class kid who attends the local university on scholarship thanks to the fact that he’s the rugby team’s star player. He’s a decent enough chap who, lately, has been dreaming of demons and a mysterious fellow who wears a wide brimmed hat and what looks like a bird’s beak. What these dreams might mean is beyond him but it isn’t until he and his classmates discover some human bones and a strange medallion in the university quad that things get interesting for John.
Talked into participating in a prank, John is caught attempting to take the bones they discovered and set them up in their stuffy Professor Hawkins’ office. Hawkins takes him before the Associate Dean of Academic Affair for expulsion but thanks to John’s sexy sister, Lindsey, John’s mother shows up with her employer and a man that just so happens to be John’s uncle. Everyone is surprised that this man of great influence, named Lord Altair, is able to convince the Associate Dean to let John off the hook. If nearly being thrown out of the university wasn’t enough, John’s uncle has a secret he wishes to part with the young man that is somehow connected to John’s father.
As it turns out, John and Lindsey’s father was not only a soldier but the member of an order of the Knights Templar. After his death, he left his son John a giant sword of power known as the Molten Edge. As the dreams start becoming more vivid and the birdman’s attack on Lindsey who “borrowed” the medallion John swiped during his attempt to pull a prank on his professor. The man with the beak reveals that he wants the medallion but Lindsey is tough enough to resist.
Taking the sword and the medallion to their uncle, John and Lindsey are taken to Lord Altair who makes a most interesting revelation to them. If you played the game then you already know about the coming war between demons and the Knights Templar that have sworn to protect the world from evil that will eventually lead to a major battle known as the “Battle of All Hallow’s Eve.”
I won’t spoil things by revealing the true identity of the “birdman” that is after the Fowlers but I will say that John loses his arm in the battle against this foe and gets a replacement arm made by demons. Because of his demon arm, John is forced to stay away from the Templar’s underground base but finds an ally with a psychic named Mother Lucidia. Lindsey, who not only proves that she is brave enough to not only stand up against the demons but also slay them, is chosen to stay with the Knights Templar as one of their chosen warriors. In the end, the two siblings part ways so it will be interesting to see how the two will combat the demon hordes apart.
If anything, Hellgate: London is a departure from other horror-action manga and it’s a nicely told story that is a blast to read. I’m certainly not a fan of the game but I must say that the way the story is presented you will find yourself looking forward to the next one. It’s a decent start, to say the least, that doesn’t really take off until the end. Still, this prequel manages to be entertaining and delightfully enjoyable.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
As far as the story is concerned, Nelson does a brilliant job of working with the material introduced by the PC game and certainly does a better job of weaving his own tale that does justice to the genre and theme. It gets appropriately gruesome towards the end so mind the rating recommendations. In other words, the bloody action is fun for the older set.
I like J.M’s art and thought TOKYOPOP’s Star Trek manga had its own interesting look. The pencils in this manga are good but not great.
With an excellent writer at the helm and a more than decent artist providing the visuals, Hellgate: London is an excellent beginning to what will be a bloody good series. Even if you’re not a fan of the game – like me – or the book (TOKYOPOP also includes a preview of Book II) you will be easily swept away by the supernatural tale with a side of demon-slaying action on the side. If this was the setup then I can’t wait to see the next chapter.