Martin and John Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 978-1-4278-1018-2
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: Martin and John

Martin and John Vol. #01

By Briana Lawrence     October 31, 2008
Release Date: July 15, 2008

Martin and John Vol.#01

There’s a man named Martin and there’s a man named John.  And there’s another man named Martin and another named John.  And then… there’s another man named Martin and another named John. 

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist: Hee Jung Park
Translated by: Soo-Kyung Kim
Adapted by: Ailen Lujo

What They Say
Three different stories about three different men named Martin and three different men named John. Confused? So are they... about love, relationships and especially their feelings. This collection of stories take place in different places, in different times - all about a man named Martin and a man named John, and the struggle for love between them.

The Review
So I admit, I’m one of those fangirls who will look at any book that appears to have at least a sprinkle of boy’s love in it.  The cover to this manga definitely hints at boy’s love, and to top it off the art is gorgeous.  There’s two guys on the cover, lounging on a fancy looking couch and one guy is resting his head on the other guy’s chest.  The couch is in the middle of a dismal looking place that’s completely grey, from the storm clouds to the water, and the art style sort of makes the cover look like a painting.  The back cover is a couple of different shades of green, the same two guys sitting close to each other as one cuts the other one’s hair.  Both of the guys are in black and white instead of being in color.  The first two pages of the manga are in color, showing an empty bathroom on one page and a guy sitting alone on the other, the narration in bright green.  

The art is just… I can’t explain it without turning into a pile of mush because of how pretty it is.  The characters, the colors, the shading, everything!  And I really like how subtle it is with any explicit scenes in the stories, which part of me finds more attractive than the “BAM!  In your face!” sex scenes.  It’s one of those art styles that matches perfectly with the story and it sort of makes me feel like I’m reading something “adult,” as in, there’s going to be something meaningful or the characters are going to face things that don’t have simple , clean cut solutions.  It’s very easy to get lost in the art, but sometimes I would get so lost in it that I would lose track of the story.  It felt like everything just sort of flowed together with no real indication of past or present time or when things were taking place for the characters.    

I like the way the stories are written, I like the fact that we get so many character’s points of view and I like the sort of messy timeline.  It goes backwards, in a way.  We get the huge life altering moment for the characters first then the story goes back and lets us see their feelings, their lifestyles, and how everything is changing for them.  A lot of times I was confused while reading, at times I couldn’t tell who was narrating, or even who was speaking.  It would take a second read, or I’d flip back a page and reread until it finally clicked in my head.  I’m not sure if it was the art, or the writing, or just me trying to process everything that was going on.  

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
#0: Martin and John
I’m still not sure if this is part of the first story or not.  It’s a strange alternate universe where Martin and John are in a desert, and Martin is John’s submissive dog… literally.  He wears a dog hat with a collar and has apparently stopped being John’s friend to instead be his pet because, according to him, human love is a joke since humans love one thing then move on to the next.  Pets, however, love faithfully forever.  John doesn’t agree and he misses the love he had from Martin when he was human, so he decides to help Martin become human again.  This was definitely surprising to see at the start of the manga and after this story was over I had no idea what to expect.  Part of me thinks it was a separate side story while another thinks its some sort of dream that Martin is having since later on, in story #1, he has a dream about a desert. 

The story starts out with John being hit by a truck.  Despite the tragic beginning of the story this was actually the moment where I knew I would like the story, because I loved the fact that the only thing on his mind before he died was one of the bills he hadn’t paid.  I thought that was a cool detail to add and it definitely drew me in.  After the accident we see a woman getting a phone call and we can assume that she’s learning that John has been killed.  It then switches to Martin, who has been ignoring all of his phone calls, and we get a flashback of John telling him that he’s getting married and leaving him.  So poor Martin is dealing with that and the fact that his ex-boyfriend has been killed.

Martin is sitting at a coffee shop later on and is being watched by the same woman who was in the beginning of the story.  She (Mari) has come to the coffee shop to meet with him and its revealed that she’s the woman that John left Martin for.  What’s interesting about her is that she knows how John felt about Martin and even acknowledges the fact that she married a gay man, but she says that she wanted to escape from her conventional life and John needed an excuse to leave Martin.  John was the type who slept with whoever he liked while Martin was committed to being with one person, so he’d wait up for John while he was out.

Mari tells Martin that she wants to sleep with him because of the things John would say about him.  Martin refuses at first, but the two of them end up leaving the coffee shop and going to Martin’s place.  We learn a lot about Mari during this part.  As her and Martin sleep together she reveals that she’s never slept with John, and she wonders what kind of expression he had during sex or how he looked when he was happy, something she never got to see while they were together. 

This story sort of leaves important plot points (or what could be important plot points) behind and instead focuses on the characters.  There’s something going on with the insurance company and the money John left behind but it’s only mentioned once and not brought up again.  There’s also the part towards the end where Mari reveals that John had a disease that would’ve killed him, so he wouldn’t have lived long anyway (and John also comments that his blood is poison).  The final blow is her telling Martin that John actually killed himself because either the disease would’ve killed him or him being without Martin would’ve killed him.  The story ends with Martin holding John in his arms after the accident, and John dies in his arms.  

This story is about a man named John Hatch, a vocalist and guitarist in a band who’s got a pretty great life since his good looks and cool demeanor make him popular with everyone, especially the ladies.  One night while he’s sleeping with a woman he gets a phone call that he ignores, but the answering machine plays a message that makes him completely freeze up: his father has passed away.  Though to be honest they weren’t particularly close.  His father divorced his mother when he was a child and after that he saw his father a lot less, and while they loved each other they didn’t have a close father and son relationship. 

At the funeral John meets a lawyer who was very close to his father and he learns that his father actually remarried.  His new wife was crazy about whitewater rafting and their boat capsized.  John’s friend, Martin, thinks that John is upset because most of his father’s inheritance had been donated to charity, but in reality John is upset because his father left something behind that he wasn’t expecting: a little brother for John to take care of.  The boy, also named Martin, is John’s brother through marriage and has no blood relation to him at all, so John decides that the two of them will be like roommates and mind their own business.  Of course, as time passes, John ends up getting closer to his little brother and they start to form a relationship.  But there’s something a bit… off about the kid, and John can’t quite figure out what it is.  Even the babysitter feels that the kid has gone through something traumatic in the past. 

A little while later John gets a call from the lawyer who he met at the funeral.  He learns that Martin was actually adopted by his mother, Carol (who John’s father married) and his birth mother had him when she was just a teenager and the boyfriend she had abused him very badly.  Now Martin’s mother is back, trying to get custody of her child and John has to decide what he wants to do in this new situation he’s been put in. 
I’m surprised that I like this manga so much.  The description of it sort of makes it sound “meh” to me, mostly because you can tell that they’re trying to overly complicate things with the “there’s a man named Martin and a man named John” repetition.  The stories in the manga are complicated, not because of the names, but because of the situations presented in each one.  I’m starting to really like series that are about people going through their normal lives and dealing with different obstacles, in this case, a love triangle and a custody battle. 

I did have to read this twice because the first time I kept flipping back pages, thinking I had missed something.  I’m still not quite sure if it was me or the writing that confused me, but part of me thinks its because there’s no clear indications of a flashback (and there’s quite a few of them in the first story).  I’d be reading and suddenly Mari would be talking to John instead of Martin.  I’m definitely spoiled by the series that outline the frames in black for flashbacks, but this one doesn’t do that at all.  It takes a bit of getting use to, but at the same time it was kinda cool because it felt like John was still alive and important to both of them.

I’m looking forward to the second volume, which should conclude the story about the second John and his new little brother.  I admit, I was looking forward to this book for the boy’s love and was a bit disappointed at first to see it only last for the one story.  But the second story is just as enjoyable to read, maybe even moreso than the first story (and it was certainly an interesting twist on the “Martin and John” thing).  I felt like I was more involved with the characters in the second story; I was worried about Martin’s well-being and hoping that John would take care of him, and with the return of his mother I grew even more concerned and I’m wondering who would be best for him since neither John or Martin’s mother are exactly great people.   

I’m curious to see if John will even fight to keep Martin.  He was not at all happy about getting a kid brother, but you can tell that he’s grown fond of him (and annoyed with him, especially since he can’t get a girl in bed because Martin is constantly in the way).  Martin’s real mother returning would give John an excuse to get rid of the kid, but does he even want to?  The best part about this story is that not everyone is a saint, all of them have made mistakes and the question is are any of them redeemable enough to be able to take care of Martin.  And after all of this there’s still two more Martins and two more Johns to read about, and I can’t wait to see how the manga plays on the “love” they have for each other.           


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