Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE: Part 1 – Phantom Blood Volume 1


CARTOONIST: Hirohiko Araki
TRANSLATION: Evan Galloway
LETTERS: Mark McMurray
ISBN: 978-1-4215-7879-8; hardcover (February 2015); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
260pp, B&W with some color, $19.99 U.S., $22.99 CAN, £12.99 U.K.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a multi-genre, shonen manga created by Hirohiko Araki.  It first appeared in the Japanese manga anthology magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, in 1986, but has been in Ultra Jump for the last decade.

VIZ Media is making the legendary manga available in English for the first time as a series of deluxe edition graphic novels with color pages and new cover art.  A multi-generational tale, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure centers on the heroic Joestar family and their never-ending battle against evil.  JoJo's Bizarre Adventure begins with the “Phantom Blood” arc.  It is the story of two brothers; one ambitious, but also cruel and evil, and the other is dignified and strives to be a just man.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 11) opens far in the past, as an ancient ritual reveals the power of a mysterious stone mask.  Centuries later, in Great Britain, a cliff side accident brings together two men, Lord Joestar and Dario Brando.  The former is a grateful gentleman; the other is a thief who, by chance, appears to be a kind and helpful man.

Then, the story leaps forward to 1881.  Lord Joestar adopts Dario's son, Dio Brando, and brings the lad into his home.  However, Dio immediately begins to plot against his new brother, Jonathan Joestar, only son of Lord Joestar.  Although Jonathan makes an effort to bond with his adopted brother, he finds that Dio only causes him grief and pain.  Secretly, Dio plans to usurp Jonathan as heir to the Joestar family.  The return of the ancient stone mask will change both fates and plans.

I had heard of the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga, which was first published in 1986 in Weekly Shonen Jump, but I cannot remember when.  VIZ Media recently sent me a copy of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood Volume 1 for review, which surprised me because I had assumed that this was going to be a digital release.

As I am unfamiliar with this series, I do not know how it evolves over time as story.  I imagine the visual and graphical style of the art also changes.  Phantom Blood, Vol. 1 is certainly bizarre in terms of the overall graphical storytelling and the visual presentation.  Creator Hirohiko Araki has an awkward, chunky approach to drawing male characters.  Jonathan and Dio grow into behemoths who smash and crash into each other, and into anyone else who wants to fight them.  There is a strangely beautiful quality to this odd, ungainly cartooning of the human figure and head and face.  I found myself eager to see how characters would look from one panel to the next.

The story is a blast to read.  I read it in big chunks, stopping only when I had to do something else.  Honestly, I hated to come to the end this volume.  JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is outlandish, and the fights are wild affairs that seem like comic book parodies of the fights in martial arts movies.  There is also a cliffhanger quality to each chapter that demands that readers come back to see more of this kooky manga that blends horror and fantasy adventure.  In fact, I already want more.  Fans of unusual shonen manga will want to try the Shonen Jump Advanced series, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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