25 Jun, 2010

Shinjuku

By: Ken Haley

Written by Mink, Art by Yoshitaka Amano
Dark Horse, 160 pp.
Rating: 16 +

Daniel Legend is a bounty hunter, tasked with tracking down the various criminals of LA. After one busy night on the job he arrives home to discover an old postcard in the mail, apparently sent to him from his long lost sister. With the card as the only clue as to her whereabouts, Daniel heads off to the place pictured on the card in search of answers. He heads off to Shinjuku.

Going from that description, Shinjuku doesn’t sound half bad, does it? Well, I fooled you because it is half bad. Which half? Well, it’s certainly not Amano’s half that’s for sure. Shinjuku is a weird hodgepodge of near-future sci-fi, Eastern mysticism, crime stories and more. All of which could and should jell together nicely to give an intriguing, weird, maybe even pulpy piece of fiction. Sadly, in Mink’s hands it falls a bit short. For one thing, all of the characters are incredibly flat and bland. Daniel Legend, aside from a rather snazzy name, is a fairly unmemorable protagonist. The main antagonist, Shi, is only a bit more memorable thanks in part due to his tattoos. Neither is terribly compelling, though, and for the most part their personalities are incredibly thin.

They move through the plot with little to no explanation given for their actions beyond the idea that Shi wants to rule the universe and Daniel Legend is the key to this. I’m still a bit foggy on how, though. There was something going on involving a bull god named Togensa, some things about cycling through realities and Daniel’s father, but beyond that a lot of what happens just seems to happen because the writer wants it to. There’s no natural flow or progression and a lot of action and plot points occur off the page, such as a subplot dealing with an LA gangster coming to Tokyo in search of Daniel and his sister, and… oh, the entire climax of the story.

Still, there was one redeeming thing about Shinjuku, namely Amano’s artwork. Unlike other illustrated novels, there’s more than just a few pieces here. In fact, nearly every single page is adorned by some kind of artwork from Amano, ranging from incredibly striking two-page spreads to small, half-page pieces. It’s definitely a rougher and less clean style than I’m used to from Amano, and he focuses heavily on the use of black, gray and red, with the odd blue or gold tossed in for kicks. But yeah, his artwork is the highlight of the story and it looks gorgeous in this oversized format.

In the end, Shinjuku was a rather disappointing read that boasts some lovely-looking artwork by Amano. I was left feeling confused, bewildered and wondering what I had just read and what was the point of it. But who knows, maybe all will become clear in the next two planned installments of the series.

Shinjuku is available now.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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