Comics : Spider-Man: The Manga #31

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Okay, I give up. It was bad enough having to wait forever for the six issue "evil Spider-Man" storyline to get published but then, inexplicably, the next issue of the series was released one week after, only to subsequently never be seen again. I have waited over six months in vain and now consider Manga to be officially defunct. (And why didn't they stop the series after finally lurching to the end of the previous story rather than putting out the first issue of another never-to-be-completed episode? Ah, my friends, strange indeed are the ways of publishing.)

So, what's there to say about a comic that is little more than a set-up for an unfinished epic, published over six months ago and likely forgotten by all but the most avid Spidey fans? Not much. This one's strictly in the interest of completeness only.

In Detail...

Spider-Man: The Manga #31
Apr 1999 : SM Title
Summary: Kidnapping
Editor:  Dan Nakrosis
Writer/Artist:  Ryoichi Ikegami
Retouching and Production:  Dano Ink Studios
Translation:  Mutsumi Masuda
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A sad young woman wanders the streets of Tokyo alone. Amidst the gaiety of the city - cheerful pedestrians, sports cars, night clubs, even a laughing Santa Claus - all she can think about is the abuse she has received in various low-paying jobs as she has been repeatedly berated for being a "dumb country girl" and taken advantage of in various demeaning ways under pain of dismissal. The final indignity is a demand to take off her clothes for the customers. When she refuses, she is fired.

Now, in shock after her last dismissal, the young woman wanders through ten pages without dialogue. With nowhere to go, she squats on a sidewalk and shivers. A newspaper caught in the wind smacks her squarely in the face. And she becomes aware of another person, a frightening figure, who follows her when she flees. The person is Yu Komori, the Manga Spider-Man, and his only reason for following is concern for the woman but she does not know this.

Elsewhere, three young criminals set up a kidnapping. They move a construction sign forcing an approaching limo to slow down, then they force the well-dressed passenger out of the car at gunpoint. Once their victim is unprotected, they hit him over the head, handcuff him, put tape over his mouth, and shove him into the trunk of their waiting car. But there are two witnesses to the abduction. A young woman down on her luck and a young super-hero in his civilian identity.

The kidnappers decide to take Yu and the young woman along with them, planning to kill them both later. Yu knows he can escape at any time but he goes along in order to protect the sad woman. They are taken in a car to the outskirts of town where a mansion, so decayed it is falling in on itself, awaits. And that.... is the end of that.

In General...

Actually, it's a shame that things end at this point because this first part looks like Ikegami at his best. Not much happens but the artwork is first-rate; evoking by turns a sad poignat atmosphere and a moody film noir look. The dialogueless sequence of the unnamed woman shivering in the street and struck by the newspaper is heart-rending. Yu looks simultaneously like a stalker and a protector. The three villains look intent, bored, and proud of themselves by turns. There are tiny gems tucked into the artwork; a discarded match is followed as it hits the base of the construction sign and the "scuffing" as the sign is moved seems to churn up dust like a match's smoke. The clubbing of the limo driver is graphic (his falling glasses make it especially powerful) but the clubbing of the big-shot is not shown at all... as if the reader politely looks away, as if to make us complicitous in the contrasts between the working and the privileged classes. Yet, it is the poor country woman who is young and attractive while the mansion at the end is old and in disrepair. Where was all this going? I have no idea but I wish I could have found out.

Overall Rating...

Three webs for a great start but a start, unfortunately, is all it is.

Uninspired and silly for the first half of its run, Spider-Man: The Manga ended up becoming a unique and sensitive book. Stuck with recreating Marvel villains initially, Ikegami did not break out into his new and interesting directions until he broke away from those characters. The result was a series that deserved to last longer. Maybe if Marvel had begun the reprints with the later, better stories, the series would have found an audience. Too bad it didn't.