Priest Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 28, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Translated by:Jessica Kim
What They Say
There's gonna be a hanging in the frontier town of St. Baldlas. The leader of the infamous Angel Gang has finally been brought to justice, and the marshals want to hang 'er high. But before they can string her up they must first put her on the earliest available train to get her to St. Baldlas. Of course, her gang isn't about to lose their leader without a fight. The deadly Kacho and a half-dozen other thugs take over the train, but they're about to find out that there's more on this train than just marshals. When the first drop of blood spills they open the gates to Hell and a shipment of zombies is unleashed. The only one capable of stopping the undead threat is Ivan Isaacs, a mysterious priest with an arsenal of weapons for fighting the ghouls.
The front cover features some fantastic artwork that features our fallen Priest Ivan Isaacs, with Bible and knife in one hand and gun in the other. Behind him is the the devil, Belial. The logo features the title written in a gothic font on top of a horizontal cross. The back cover features a beautiful illustration of a train heading of into the sunset. The summary is written in a font that adds to the whole occult/gothic feel of the book. Both covers have a lot of brown hues in the artwork which gives the book a rustic, leather bound look. The artwork is printed on black paper which further heightens the gothic horror feel of the story as well as giving the reader the impression that you are reading some old, long forgotten story. There were a couple pages where the printing was a bit washed out, but nothing severe. The opening and closing page headers feature some interesting occult artwork. The chapter headers feature the only white pages in the book, and each have a small piece of occult and religious influenced artwork. Tokyopop did a great job with presenting this manwha as everything really fits together and puts the reader in the right mood for this dark story.
The artwork and designs in Priest can best be described as squared-off and angular. It's a style that is definitely not from your typical manga/manwha, as it borrows more from something like Mignola's Hellboy. The faces have a more chiseled and rugged appearance which I find completely appropriate for the Wild West setting. It also helps set the tone with the dark and violent horror angle of the story. The zombie and corpse designs are downright terrifying at times.
The panel work is done perfectly. There were times where I felt I was reading a storyboard to a scene in a blockbuster action movie. One of the real talents of Hyung is that he is able to tell a story with just these panels and little dialogue. He really made me feel the scene and become engrossed in it.
The adaptation and translation team for Tokyopop did a great job with fitting the feel of the characters and setting with the dialogue. The first couple pages contain the Latin version of the “Perceptio Corporis tui” prayer, which adds a nice chilling effect to the scene it is spoken. There is also a lot of Biblical text that is spoken by Ivan that is translated well, with the exception of a missing “of” in “shadow of death” on one page. The dialogue for some characters is also peppered with a sort of dialect that would be familiar to a western movie. There’s even a Hispanic character that mixes up Spanish and English in his dialogue which helps give him his own personality. The font also changes when certain characters speak, for example Ivan and Belial. The font does a great job at matching what you would think the voices would sound like and actually helps distinguish who is talking during the “inner dialogue” that Ivan has with Belial. Another great touch that just makes this story even more enjoyable.
The SFX are left in place in Korean and not translated. There were a couple scenes where I found myself needing to know what was happening and a glossary or note in the margins would have come in handy.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
“My name is Ivan Isaacs. This is the record of my nightmare.”
A chilling couple lines that kick off the story of a Priest who sold half his soul to the devil to get revenge on those responsible for killing the one he loved. Right off the bat we are thrown into a ghost town set in what appears to be a parallel world to the American Old West. Only this town is filled with what appear to be zombies, and Ivan is blasting away at a feverish pace with empty casings flying, cape flapping, and blood splattering, all while a mysterious Priest is reading the prayer, “Perceptio Corporis tui” in Latin. It is this melding of genres with the Old West and gothic horror that make this such a captivating and unique story to read.
What is so fascinating about this volume is that after we do a little time shift into the past after this opening scene, the whole volume takes place on a train, a quintessential piece to an Old West story. However, this train isn’t filled with your normal passengers. There’s a mysterious 8th car that contains what appear to be coffins and is completely locked down with chains. The leader of a gang called the Rebel Angels is being transported for execution. A high society playboy, pickpocket, Ivan Isaacs, and the other innocent civilians all get aboard this train that is headed to its doom.
It is really a treat to watch Hyung set up all of his characters on this train, getting your perceptions in place, and then completely changing them by the time the volume is over. When the Rebel Angels show up to rescue their leader, Lizzie, right away they become the enemy. They shoot some of the passengers, act completely rude, and right away you think that Ivan and them are going to go toe-to-toe. However, once those coffins open up at the smell of blood, the Rebel Angels seem like innocent boy scouts and by the end of the volume their leader Lizzie seems like the victim. It is a real treat to see Hyung take control of his characters as though they were chess pieces and completely engaging the reader.
During this train ride, a lot of little details are let out about Ivan that raise a lot of questions that will be answered later. While he does seem to be possessed by this devil Belial, Ivan insists that he does not want to be controlled and keep his free will. It’s an interesting dichotomy and is a battle that Ivan seems to begin to lose. There is also some hints about this Gena, who seems to be the girl that Ivan loved and is his inspiration for revenge. There are a lot of questions that will keep things interesting for awhile.
Min-Woo Hyung takes the classic Old West genre and puts an ingenious spin on it by adding in the gothic horror elements. The first volume is pure action bliss, but contains enough tidbits of story to keep an interest in reading more. Ivan Isaacs is such a great, conflicted anti-hero, a Priest who lost the woman he loved so he sold half his soul to a devil so he could get his revenge all while trying to maintain his free will. It’s so rare to see such a conflicted and also frightening character in the lead role, so this is a real unique treat. There is a lot of violence in this volume, but the intensity of the violence is right on par with the internal drama of Ivan Isaacs. I really can’t recommend this title enough. Very highly recommended.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Left to Right