Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: BARRAGE Volume 2


CARTOONIST: Kouhei Horikoshi
TRANSLATION: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
LETTERS: James Gaubatz
EDITOR: Hope Donovan
ISBN: 978-1-4215-5571-3; paperback (April 2013); Rated “T” for “Teen”
192pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN

Barrage, the two-volume manga series, comes to an end with the recent release of the second volume. Hopefully, the series will eventually see life in a second run.

Barrage is a sci-fi adventure set on the planet Industria, where peace has been disrupted by an influx of alien races. The alien activity causes planetary instability and begins the Warring Planets Period. Astro is 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 Astro into contact with Prince Barrage, the son of the King of Industria. Barrage looks exactly like Astro, so the prince, who wants to be free of royal responsibility, demands that Astro take his place. Astro becomes Prince Barrage and is given Orgue, the all-powerful magical spear that can help him restore peace to Industria.

As Barrage, Vol. 2 (entitled Astro of the Warring Planets; Chapters 8 to The Final Chapter) opens, Astro and tutor/mentor, Lord Tiamat, continue their adventure (journey) of freeing Industria from alien invaders. They enter the walled city of Maseille, which has been overrun by aliens and traitorous members of the Planetary Military Forces.

Astro and Tiamat meet Tiko, a belligerent girl who carries out an underground war against the forces that oppress Maseille. Her war becomes theirs, but a seemingly omnipotent power known as Dark Energy complicates matters. As Astro and Tiamat battle, they discover that Maseille’s problems are tied to Astro’s murky past.

After reading the first volume of the Barrage manga, I was delightfully surprised. This shonen manga (comics for teen boys) had a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and action that reminded me of the kind of Saturday morning cartoons that dominated television in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s like Shonen Jump meets Hanna-Barbera.

I still think that Barrage is like some of the OEL manga/graphic novels that American manga publisher, TOKYOPOP, produced before it expired (or whatever). It also makes me think of Dark Horse Comics’ short-lived Rocket Comics imprint.

After finding the first volume so appealing, I wondered what I would think of Barrage Volume 2. I think I like Vol. 2 more than I did Vol. 1. This is a fun, fantasy series with copious amount of sci-fi action and plenty of humor. What I like the most about Barrage is creator Kouhei Horikoshi’s graphic style. In terms of composition and page design, Barrage looks like other shonen manga.

In terms of graphic style, Barrage could easily find a place in European comics. The graphical storytelling speaks a universal comic book language that is not necessarily manga or much like American superhero fantasy. It is genre entertainment that could have international appeal, like Tintin or The Smurfs. Barrage Volume 2 is the last of a two-volume series. Hopefully, Barrage will return.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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