Tag Archives: thriller

Zoo: The Graphic Novel

Animals the world over are setting their sights on fresh prey–man. Only biologist Jackson Oz has recognized the patterns in the escalating chain of violent attacks by animals against mankind. And these incidents are just the prelude to something far, far more terrifying. Now Oz is in a race against nature to try to warn humanity about the coming catastrophe. But is it already too late?!

Zoo: The Graphic NovelZoo
Written by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge; Art and Adaptation by Andy MacDonald
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Thriller
Price: $25.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Yen Press has enjoyed a decent success with James Patterson-penned books, and Zoo: The Graphic Novel takes that formula and moves it up to the next level with a title in a deluxe hardcover format and story that could have been ripped from the headlines. While the story brings up some very interesting ideas, that doesn’t keep it from stumbling here and there.

Zoo follows evolutionary biologist Jackson Oz, a man on the fast track at Columbia University until he throws it all away for a pet theory that no one believes. HAC, or Human Animal Conflict, is the theory that different animals around the world were becoming hyper-aggressive toward humans. With little to no support, Oz is on his own, but when male lions start hunting humans together, other scientists start to take notice. It takes a long time to gather evidence and get people’s attention, but it isn’t until pets are affected that it’s really taken seriously.

Zoo is a science thriller, in the vein of Jurassic Park, and is much more thriller than science. It takes a lot of time to build up, as Oz races between Africa, Washington DC and New York, trying to get people to listen to him. Once he finally does get both the scientific community and government to support his research, it’s still another 5 years with no real answer in sight. The tension continues to grow, with the attacks becoming more frequent, and Oz having to keep going to meetings to keep convincing government officials the problem is real. It finally hits home when HAC reaches our own pets; mainly dogs. Presumably cats too, but they are never shown.

All of the attacks and posturing takes up most of the volume. The science is relegated to a small part near the end, but it’s really the most interesting part. Environmental change is responsible, just not in the way no one was expecting. It’s not global warming, but it does relate to the increased use of petroleum products and cell phone radiation. Humans are not only affected by the change in a way similar to the animals, but they are also responsible for it.

Here’s where I start to have problems with the story. The first reaction to the news is a typical knee-jerk military “bomb everything” solution that does nothing to solve it. When the solution is finally given, and it seems to work for 5 days; just 5 days, everyone just assumes the emergency is over and it’s back to business as usual? Really? People are shown what works and they just throw it out after less than a week because it’s inconvenient? I found this twist in the part down right problematic. I know people can be dumb, and there will be people who don’t want to be inconvenienced, but I think this part just crossed the line in underestimating people.

The other problem I had was with the subplot. Oz was caring for a chimpanzee, Atilla, he rescued from a lab that was experimenting on him. Oz spends all of his time running around the globe, and completely ignoring the “wild” animal in his own apartment that was starting to display the same symptoms. He blames himself for his ex-girlfriend’s death at Atilla’s hands, and well he should, though not for the reason he thought. Atilla is shown torn between his relationship with Oz and his instincts. If Oz had just paid him a little more attention, he may have seen the signs earlier, and Oz may even have been able to help him find an answer. Instead, the ex-girlfriend is offed for the new girlfriend to become wife and mother, so Atilla can show he still cares for Oz near the end.

The art is in black and white and more realistic in its renderings. The attack scenes are fairly graphic, though there aren’t too many body parts left strewed around. At least no intestines are shown hanging out. A nose does get spit out. The presentation is very well done, with the book being over-sized, and the paper a heavy gloss.

Overall, I did enjoy Zoo. It was a good thriller with some fascinating science behind it. Oz takes the typical stance that science isn’t to blame, but thankfully also doesn’t look for anywhere else to point fingers. He lays it right out that humanity is to blame for their problems, but the end seems to imply we won’t learn from our mistakes, and I think that’s the wrong stand to take.  Humanity’s strength has always been to learn and adapt, and even if it means two steps back before a step forward, we would find a way.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Volume 1-5

Lunar Legend Tsukihime is about Shiki Tohno. Eight years ago, he was in an accident that left him weakened, and with a mysterious power.  He can see the hidden lines, or death lines, in all things, organic or inanimate. By cutting along these lines, he can destroy or kill anything, or anyone.  While in the hospital he meets a woman who claims she is a magician, and gives him some special glasses that make it so he can’t see the lines as long as he wears them. After recovering, Shiki was sent away from the main Tohno family home to live with relatives.  Now, after the death of his father, his younger sister Akiha has asked him to live in the big house again with her. Shiki accepts, but on his way home from school the same day he is to move in, he sees a woman in the park. Something seems to take over him, and he cuts the woman into several pieces. Then he faints.  He awakens the next day, in his new home.  Believing the events from the day before a dream, he goes to school, and meets the woman again, who then berates him for killing her. She is Arcueid Brunestud, a true ancestor vampire. And thanks to Shiki’s attack, she is weakened and needs help with her job to stop other vampires that have been killing people in the city.  To make up for his attacking her, Shiki agrees to help her.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Volume 1-5
Illustrator: Sasakishonen/Creators: Type Moon/Tsukihime Project
Publisher: DrMaster Publications
Age Rating: 15+
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Price: $9.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Lunar Legend Tsukihime is an intriguing horror/thriller story. At first it seems like a typical vampire horror story, with lots of people being torn apart and blood splattered everywhere. But the further you get into the story, the more about Shiki’s mysterious past starts to come out. It’s this part of the story that’s really intriguing. The only problem is, it takes a while to get there.

The first two volumes work as an introduction.  We meet all the main characters and learn about Shiki’s special power.  It’s a slow build up, and you’re not quite sure what you’re in for until Shiki and Arcueid meet in an alley and are attacked by Nero Chaos, an assassin sent to kill Arcueid.  By the end of the second volume, Nero is dead, killed only with the help of Shiki’s power.  The third volume is a sort of breather, that gives a lot of exposition and introduces the real story; the hunt for the vampire, Roa.  He is a former human who was turned into a vampire, and tried to gain immortality.  Instead, he gained the power of reincarnation.  It is Arcueid’s mission to find and kill Roa whenever he appears.  At the same time, Shiki, who lost his  memories of his life before the accident, are starting to come back.  He starts to realize that something horrible happened eight years ago, and he may have been responsible for it.  He also starts to wonder if he has some connection to Roa, or worse, be Roa.

This series starts out seeming like a typical blood and gore horror series, but the slowly built mystery around Shiki gives it some depth.  There isn’t much time given to Shiki’s life in the first two volumes as he and Arcueid essentially fight for their lives against Nero. But, there are clues about his mysterious past that are dropped almost from page one.  You don’t realize it though, until you get further into the story.  In volume 1, Ahika looks at a picture of her and Shiki when they were children, but the pictures been cut and pieced back together.  By the time you get to volume 5, what’s missing from the picture becomes obvious.  It’s little things like this that slowly add up that make the story interesting.  It was obviously well plotted out, and for all the gore, is well executed.  But if you don’t know this, the pacing will seem really off.  The story has a lot of talking going on, which can seem to drag the story down.  But it’s necessary to keep the mystery moving forward.

The characters are surprisingly well-developed for a vampire story.  There aren’t any of the typical manga stereotypes.  The main characters, Shiki and Arcueid are the most developed with many of the others falling to the wayside.  Shiki is a typical high school student with normal friends, who is thrust into a strange world that he has difficult dealing with, but because of his power doesn’t really deny. Arcueid is rather interesting.  She is a vampire that doesn’t drink human blood, so she doesn’t have her fangs in someone’s neck constantly.  She hasn’t lived around humans for centuries, so she doesn’t really understand them very well. She is technically knowledgeable about the human world, but sometimes seems more like a child when actually encountering things, or deal with people.  We meet his friends at school, but that’s the only place we see them. Ciel, who starts out as one of Shiki’s school mates, turns out to have some secrets as well as Akiha. They both seem to know more about Shiki than he does, and not very willing to tell him anything, making them suspicious to Shiki and the reader.

There is a relationship growing between Shiki and Arcueid, as would be expected of the protagonists of a vampire story, but it isn’t straightforward.  It’s more of an attraction based not so much on looks.  But Shiki can’t keep away from Arcueid.  He keeps telling himself he’s seeing her because she needs his help.  But a dream from the third volume shows he would like to be more than just friends with her.  Arcueid, despite trying to get rid of Shiki after the defeat of Nero, finds she wants to be with him too.  When he is late coming to their meeting place one night, she’s angry.  But it seems she’s more hurt than upset, and she waits for 5 hours for him.  That not something you do with someone who’s “just helping”.  The relationship between them seems natural though with all the time they spend together and all they go through.  It’s another good element.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime was originally a ero visual novel game.  It grew in popularity and got an anime and this manga made from it.  But it’s ero roots are still visible.  Arcueid and Ciel, are very well endowed.  Though, to the manga’s credit, there are no panty shots (despite all the girls wearing skirts or dresses all the time), and next to no nudity in these first five volumes.  There is only one implied sex scene that is a dream with very little being shown.  Story and character development takes precedent over any possible fetishes or pandering.

Dr Masters printing of this series has been rather inconsistent in quality.  The first two volumes have raised lines on the front and/or back covers to simulate the death lines that Shiki sees.  It’s a cute gimmick, but is stopped after that.  The paper quality has also varied, with volume 1 being a flexible, more newspaper paper, volume 2 is a more white paper that is stiffer, and 3-5 being a compromise between the two.  One thing I really dislike about all the volumes is that they are obviously cropped.  The books are about an inch shorter than the average manga, and it shows on the covers which always has some part of the character one it cut off.

Something that Dr Masters has no excuse for are the constant typos.  In every volume there are typos with words being broken incorrectly in bubbles, or whole bubbles just plain empty!  A good editor should be able to catch and correct these before the book goes to be published.  Little mistakes like these should not be so prevalent in the professional work.

Overall, Lunar Legend Tsukihime has been an interesting mystery wrapped in vampire horror.  If you can get through the slow pacing and gore of the first three volumes and into the heart of story in volume 4, you will be rewarded.  Strong characters and a thoughtfully laid out plot make this a thriller to be read.