Black Cat Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kentaro Yabuki
Translated by:JN Productions
Adapted by:

What They Say
Train and his partner Sven go after a huge bounty, attempting to track down a weapons smuggler who is dealing dangerous new technology on the black market. They cross paths with an elegant thief who offers to help them, but will the alliance be fruitful, or will the burglar bring bad luck to Black Cat?

The Review
Fans comfortable with reading shounen action clones will most likely find a good bit of enjoyment with Black Cat, while those looking for something new or interesting could end up feeling a little cold.


Packaging:
The cover illustration is the same as the original Japanese tankoubon release, with even the logo remaining the same. The cover artwork is appropriate for the title: cute boys, cute girls, and guns! There is a nice added effect where the brick wall behind the character art has texture and glossy finish that in a way give the cover some nice depth.

The print reproduction is pretty good, very crisp and clean. Chapter headers with character artwork are included, as well as chapter insert “factoid” sheets. Extras include 1 page mini-comics from each member of the staff.

Art:
Artwork is clean with nice, fine lines, but it never really takes on a flavor of its own. I feel as though I’ve seen this style of artwork many times before. Backgrounds are very simple, with the blank face syndrome quite apparent, but there is an attempt to highlight the European style of this fictional setting. There is an interesting contrast between the heavy black tones and the large amounts of white space that do give it almost a noir kind of appeal, even if it was possibly unintentional. The action artwork is decent, but nothing that made me sit up and take notice yet.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated with over-lays, which look decent enough with a few instances trying to mimic the original style, including transparency. I definitely applaud the effort made there. The English script is adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Blue Spring, Sexy Voice and Robo, Sensual Phrase), her first shounen title I do believe. The script reads wonderfully and is not filled with the corny dialogue and catchphrases that usually permeate the Shounen Jump line. The characters’ cool and suave attitudes are captured wonderfully, which makes the translation a definite highlight of this volume. Very nice work!

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The biggest obstacle that Black Cat has to overcome is finding its own identity in a swarm of shounen titles that all feel quite similar to each other. Train Heartnet is a sweeper with a dark past that includes being a world renowned assassin called Black Cat for an organized crime syndicated called Chronos. He has cat reflexes, cat eyes, even wears a collar with a bell, and is extremely skilled with his big, black gun. Train now lives his life as an easy going bounty hunter trying to appreciate life knowing that some day Chronos will try to come and collect on their investment. Sounds very familiar, no? Train also has a sidekick named Sven who is the maintenance and equipment guy, as well as the one who deals with cashing in the bounties.

While searching for new jobs they meet up with a sexy thief named Rinslet Walker, a part-time independent contractor, part-time secret government agent who brings the boys a job with a half-a-million dollar payout. Rinselt is an independent, crafty, smooth-talker whose personality and physical appearance reminds one of another thief from a certain pirate manga also available from VIZ. Rinslet wants the boys to collect the bounty on Torneo Rudman, a crime boss who is running some sort of secret research inside of his mansion, and it is the research data that Rinslet is after.

While the first two chapters stumble a bit with introducing Train, it is the arc with Rinslet that begins to pick things up with a more cohesive and enjoyable story. The second chapters features a Chronos assassin who comes to take down Train, but ultimately ends up being quite the dud of a story and setup for Train’s character. I really thought this story should have come later with more room to expand on Train’s past, but I have a feeling we will see that happen in the future. Having Rinselt join the group adds some much needed dynamics, but most of the story revolves around Train doing the absurd and unexpected when investigating Torneo’s hideout.

Comments
Filled with sweepers, secret government thieves, nanomachines, big guns, and plenty of assassins, Black Cat has the potential to be quite the fun title for a number of readers. For me, I thought this first volume struggled a bit with finding its own voice. The character introductions were a little bumpy, but once the multi-chapter story kicked in, things seemed to even out a bit and fall into its groove. The pieces to Black Cat feel like territory already covered a few times over and much more successfully at that. Even so, this is a title that I do think a good number of manga readers who enjoy action and suave, almost superhuman characters will enjoy. The English script reads quite nicely and the print reproduction is quite good.



Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.99
Pages: 208
ISBN: 1-4215-0605-X
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left