Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Kenji Kuroda
Artist: Kazuo Maekawa
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 13+)
Release Date: Available Now
You don’t need a Stylus to enjoy this Phoenix Wright adventure.
Phoenix Wright is a name you’ll recognize if you just so happen to be a gamer or own a Nintendo DS since the Ace Attorney games have a huge following among those who like solving puzzles and murder cases. It’s style certainly has anime and manga written all over it so it wasn’t surprising to find the Capcom series translates rather well in manga form. Volume 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is here and our favorite lawyer is on the case and there will be unusual murders.
Volume 1 ended in a cliffhanger as charismatic defense attorney Phoenix Wright and his cute-yet-oddball assistant, Maya Fey is invited to the house of Robin Wolfe – the president of a well-known corporation. Suddenly, the evening turns ugly when a fire breaks out in a special room the president shares with his spider-loving brother and Robin Wolfe is found dead with a blow to the head. At the scene, the police round up Mr. Wolfe’s brother, Bobby Wolfe, who they found intoxicated and with a lighter in his pocket.
Once again, on the case, Wright and Maya look for clues around the scene of the crime only to find Wright’s suave rival, Miles Edgeworth also there to check for clues seeing as he has taken the case on the side of the prosecution against the crime‘s only suspect – Bobby Wolfe. Talked into defending Bobby in court, Wright gathers what few clues he can find but it won’t be easy considering the fact that Edgeworth is a worthy opponent in the courtroom.
As it turns out, proving Bobby Wolfe’s innocence is far more difficult a task than Wright imagined. Edgeworth quickly shoots holes in Wright’s insistence that Bobby loves spiders so much he wouldn’t dare set fire to a room containing all his beloved arachnids. He wouldn’t even dream of seeing his prized collection of books turn to ash either. Still, Edgeworth paints a picture that reveals that Bobby Wolfe often argued with his brother.
Still, Wright believes there were others there that day that had a real motive to see Robin Wolfe dead and points out that Robin was responsible for the suicide of his daughter’s boyfriend, Eddie Johnson. Among the guests that evening was the late Eddie Johnson’s brother, Brock Johnson, who also blames Robin for Eddie’s death. Yet how can he tie Robin Wolfe’s murder with the fire and fatal blow to the head when everyone has a seemingly airtight alibi?
If you’re familiar with the games, you’ll know that Phoenix Wright is the type of attorney who pulls out his tricks late in the game and he does so here. The problem is that the explanation of Robin Wolfe’s murder is not only complicated and outrageously unreasonable. There are no plausible factors that make this case seem possible, which distracts from the drama of the courtroom duel between Wright and Edgeworth.
Still, Volume 2 more than makes up for the first case’s ridiculous outcome with its second case that is not only a lot more fun to read but makes for a complex and interesting murder case. You see, Wright and Maya spend a fun evening in a theme park dedicated to Maya’s favorite Teletubby-like character named Sparklestar. Snooping around the backstage of the Sparklestar and Friends Show, both Wright and Maya enter and find the performers of the show getting ready to put on their costumes. Normally, Wright wouldn’t be interested in anything that’s going on at the moment but he finds the show’s hostess so irresistible cute that he sticks around to see the show.
The show starts off fun enough and there’s even a kid video taping the antics of the characters when one of the mascots comes staggering onto the stage and drops dead. Immediately, Wright jumps into the case as everyone on stage realizes that the victim, Flip Chambers, was stabbed in the stomach. To top it all off, the mascot’s costume had its zipper glued and there doesn’t appear to be a hole in the suit where one would expect a knife to go through if he was stabbed with a knife.
Immediately, fingers point to Julie Henson who is the only who might hold a grudge against Flip seeing as he dumped her not that long ago. Besides that, though, she’s the only one who could actually physically do it seeing as the costumes aren’t able to hold any objects and other performers can’t get out of the costumes by themselves … or so it seems.
While Edgeworth had the upper hand in the first case, he doesn’t really have much of a case here as Wright makes some rather interesting arguments that work in Julie Henson’s defense. Along with the video tape evidence taken by the Sparklestar fan that day as well as Wright’s talent for spotting little details, he makes a play that reveals the true killer.
Phoenix Wright fans will definitely enjoy the little touches that both Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa sprinkle throughout the manga. All the familiar touches are intact, including the recognizable Judge, the appearance of Detective Dick Gumshoe and even Wendy Old bag (who has a hilarious crush on Edgewood) are present. Unlike the games, the manga does offer a brief explanation of the strange legal system that has the lawyers do all the investigative work instead of the police. Sure, it makes for interesting gameplay for the DS games but – in a manga series – it just comes off as odd albeit entertaining.
Volume 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney falls short when it comes to the first case only to become engaging and even deliciously complex in its second half. If we see more cases like the second one then this series could very well be the perfect companion to favorites like Case Closed. If you’re looking for a realistic courtroom drama series you will not find it here but if you’re looking for a different kind of lawyer tale then Phoenix Wright is the attorney for you.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A visit to a company president’s home turns into a complicated murder case as Wright defends an eccentric spider-lover accused of killing his own brother and goes up against Edgeworth in a dramatic courtroom face-off. Then, a trip to a theme park turns deadly for a mascot as a cute show hostess is put on trial for a murder Wright believes she did not commit.
Kazuo Maekawa’s artwork is actually delightful to look and filled with more than enough details to make it more than adequate. Sure, the character design comes off as a bit simplistic but that’s only because it’s capturing the art design of the games. Even the “Objection!” and “Hold it!” fonts come straight out of the games.
While the first case comes off as totally absurd in many places, it more than makes up for it with the second case as this murder trail makes Volume 2 of Phoenix Wright worth reading. If you’re a big fan of the Phoenix Wright games, though, this manga series does it justice and more so if you enjoy the murder/mystery genre.
Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics