Danielle Leigh's Reading Diary -- Raiders vol 1

Any comic with a title that references the first Indiana Jones movie and adds flesh-eating zombies is more than a little bit of okay in my book.

Raiders, a manhwa (i.e. Korean comic) by JinJun Park, opens with a professor and his assistant, Irel Clark, on a mission to to find the "holy grail," which unlike in the third Indian Jones movie is not the chalice of Jesus Christ but his actual blood.  Legend has it there five "chrism bottles" which contain Christ's blood and they are believed to bestow immortality upon the person who imbibes it.   Irel -- who was apparently hired by the professor for his lack of concern for law-breaking activities and his talents with a gun -- doesn't believe a word of it.  However, when Irel is attacked by a walking but beautiful corpse (she may be a bit smelly, though, what with rotting flesh) while recovering the first chrism he finds himself drinking the contents of the cup when he's facing certain death at her hands.

And that is essentially where this story goes to some very strange, but fairly entertaining, places.  Irel is taken hostage by his attacker and let's just say that being immortal -- with regenerative flesh -- isn't all it is cracked up to be.  Particularly when a pissed off zombie has got you in her clutches.  As the main character, Irel is an odd guy who manages to manufacture pity for the undead creature who is taking out her frustrations by eating his flesh on a daily basis, but he is just nice enough to completely undermine the power-lust associated with immortality.  After all, I don't see him making a play for ultimate earthly power any time soon, which makes him completely different from all the other suspect characters involved in the quest for Christ's blood in this comic.

Importantly, in Raiders the traditional quest narrative for the last four cups of Christ's blood is nicely shot through with disturbing supernatural elements.   While the characterizations aren't particularly deep, there's a great sense of momentum in the story, propelled by a variety of figures who are after immortality (or in the case of Irel's hostage-taker relief from the unbearable heaviness of zombie-existence) and aren't the least bit shy about taking other people's lives on the way to their goal.  I'm of two-minds about the art --  it reminds a bit of Miwa Shirow's Dogs in its glaring contrast between black and white with very little use of tone, while the figures are somewhat alien looking with their strange empty-feline eyes and blank faces.  Unlike Dogs however, the art is fairly easy to follow, which is incredibly important since most of the characters' motivations are telegraphed through violence in this strangely compelling action tale.

Review copy provided by Yen Press.

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