Project D.O.A. Volume 1
By Jeffrey Nodelman & Wagner Fukuhara
Reviewed by Brian Henderson
I’ll do this review, even though I don’t really consider Project D.O.A. to be a manga. To me, and some may disagree, it needs to be written and published initially in Japan in order to be a manga. Graphic novels that come from Korea or China or France or the United States, while they may be generally modeled after the manga artform, are not manga, any more than animation that comes from anywhere but Japan is not anime.
That said though, Project D.O.A. is from one of the minds that brought you the wonderful Cartoon Network show Venture Bros.and in a lot of ways has that kind of vibe. In other ways, it strikes me as similar in feel to Buckaroo Banzai and maybe a little bit like Crusher Joe although officially, Jeff Nodelman attributes his inspirations to films like Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon and the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. In any case, it’s a not-quite-serious romp around the world, adventure-style.
Meet Dr. Dylan Oliver (also the name of Jeff Nodelman’s real life son) and his team of scientists and adventurers. Like Buckaroo Banzai, they seem to be doing science because it’s fun, not necessarily because it’s profitable. Unlike BB however, they’re not fabulously wealthy where they can just do whatever they want with no thought of the consequences, there’s a lot of worrying about the money. Luckily, Dr. Oliver always has a plan, some cockamamie scheme for finding lost treasure in some far-off locale that will give them enough cash for their short-term scientific schemes.
As the book opens, an experiment goes horribly awry and one of his team, Lilly, loses her life when she’s trapped in the same room as an unshielded nuclear reactor. Wracked with guilt, Dr. Oliver thinks that maybe he can find a way to bring her back to life but his plan will be expensive and dangerous and the only way he can figure to fund his little experiment is to drag the whole team around the world in search of a lost temple hidden inside an active volcano on a deserted island. Of course, there are Nazis involved. Why does it always have to be Nazis? Read the volume and find out.
Project D.O.A. really is a sort of fun, mindless romp through campy adventure-film tropes but it’s clear that Nodelman not only recognizes them as tropes, but he tips them on their heads often enough that what happens is unexpected. In fact, a lot of the fun is trying to figure out where the various ideas, from the giant-gorilla-filled temple to the Amazonian warriors, come from. It’s not all that deep, it won’t keep you in suspense, it certainly won’t win awards for realistic artwork, but it all comes together into something that’s fun to read and interesting enough to hold your interest and make you look forward to the next volume. I recommend it.