Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: James Raiz (p), Andrew Currie with Trevor Scott (i)
Giant monsters are attacking Tokyo! Pilots use giant robot-suits called Arcangels to fight them! But where are the monsters and the means to combat them coming from? American Zoe Flynn is in some sort of exchange program with the Japanese Arcangel team and after being sent into battle unprepared, she and another pilot, Renji, take down a giant monster. Not after causing massive amounts of property damage and loss of innocent life, though. Zoe thinks the higher-ups are hiding information from the pilots, even though she’s only been in town a matter of hours. Before she gets the chance to prove her American know-how, three more giant monsters appear on radar. To be continued.
I hope I didn’t give away a surprise ending or anything, but really, what else was going to happen? Ellis claimed that this series was just a lark to write about giant monsters and robots, and it looks like we can take him at face value on that. There’s nothing much more or less than that going on so far. I will say that this alternate-history Japan is interesting, but could use some more exploration. The idea that monsters and the weapons needed to fight them just appear in the street where Tokyo was nuked during alternate WWII is a fresh one, at any rate. I personally would like to see it fleshed out more than I’m going to get in three issues.
Character-wise, there are some interesting things going on right alongside some broad-stroke superficial disappointments. Our two main characters, Zoe and Renji, are neither very likable nor charismatic. Usually this isn’t a problem with Ellis, as he has a very deft hand at bringing out characters’ personalities without exerting a lot of effort. He may have his stock characters, but they’re rarely boring. Zoe and Renji are boring. The third pilot introduced in this issue, Kishitani, is much more developed, even though he is only around for a couple of pages. His adamant assertion that the monster attacks are punishment for Japan’s actions during WWII gives a great deal of insight into his character. Ironically, Zoe’s response to this fails to do anything to realize her at all, except to show us a character that mouths platitudes and doesn’t really have more than a passing knowledge of history. Her sudden belief that things are being hidden from her is more of a forced intrusion of plot than anything story-driven.
My biggest problem with the series, other than the built-in disappointment of getting a shallow, simplified story, is the artwork. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of detail in each panel and the overall design-work is very well done. Everything is very realistic, but (and maybe it’s just me, since I can’t stand anything transformer related – well, outside of the movie, maybe), I can’t follow any of the combat action. We seem to be positioned too close to the robots to really get a sense of what they’re doing. The same goes for the monster. A more wide-screen approach would have greatly clarified and livened up the action, which actually takes up the first half of the issue.
Another shortcoming is the fact that even though we’re in Tokyo, if I had to guess at the ethnicity of anyone in the book, from main characters to people passing by on the street, it would be impossible. Every character looks vaguely Caucasian. Movement is stiff and nothing seems to flow from panel to panel, so this isn’t just a problem with page layout: It is inherent in Raiz’s work on this project. Also, the variety of clothing worn by the passers-by in page after page is very limited. It seemed as if Raiz was rushing through, or simply glossing over, artwork involving the human characters in order to get on to more machines and monsters. Since there are two inkers involved with this issue, perhaps the problem lies there. Is Raiz just concentrating on his robots and leaving everything else to Currie and Scott to realize?
All in all, this was a disappointing second act. Ellis fans will want to get this and the next one if they’re completion junkies (like me), but otherwise there was not much to recommend here. There’s a lot of death, but no repercussions. There are giant monsters and robots, but very little fun. There doesn’t seem to be much point to it at all. Is that the point?
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