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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: BARRAGE Volume 1

BARRAGE, VOL. 1
VIZ MEDIA – @VIZMedia

CARTOONIST: Kouhei Horikoshi
TRANSLATION: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
LETTERS: James Gaubatz
EDITOR: Hope Donovan
ISBN: 978-1-4215-5275-0; paperback (February 2013); Rated “T” for “Teen”
192pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN

Barrage is a shonen manga series from creator Kouhei Horikoshi. The series is set on the planet of Industria, where peace has been disrupted by an influx of alien races. The alien activity causes planetary instability and begins the Warring Planets Period.

Enter Astro, a 15-year-old slum kid living in the capitol city, also called Industria. He struggles with low-paying jobs to support his surrogate family of six younger stray children. Fate brings him into contact with Prince Barrage, the son of the King of Industria. Barrage looks exactly like Astro, so the prince, who wants to be footloose and fancy free, demands that Astro take his place and also Barrage’s royal responsibilities.

In Barrage, Vol. 1 (entitled The Piercer; Chapters 1 to 7), Astro becomes Prince Barrage. He also takes possession of Orgue. This spear and royal relic turns into the Piercer and activates when the wearer is threaten. Now, Astro/Barrage is under the tutelage of Lord Tiamat, the legendary knight who is Prince Barrage’s guardian. The King sends Barrage and Tiamat to go on a journey to save the people of the planet, but not all his reasons for ordering this journey are unclear.

The Barrage manga is one of the series that can leave the reader delightfully surprised, as it did to me. It is more than it seems – a shonen manga (comics for teen boys) that mixes science fiction with the spirit of Saturday morning cartoons. Barrage reminds me of some of those OEL manga/graphic novels that TOKYOPOP produced before the company expired (or whatever). It also makes me think of Dark Horse Comics’ short-lived Rocket Comics imprint.

The character and concept design are not only inventive, but are also infused with a sense of youthful adventure. It is as if creator Kouhei Horikoshi opened up his sketchbooks and let his imagination run wild. Visually, Barrage rarely repeats itself, as it seems that practically every other page offers something new. The graphical storytelling moves like a battle manga and an anime. Horikoshi pushes “the importance of family” theme past the breaking point, but that does not hurt this entertaining series.  Young readers will like the Shonen Jump Alpha title, Barrage.

A-

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


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