No Man’s Land 1 (de angelis / rosero) [seven seas entertainment]

I only know what I know as an old-er local crazy anime fan, so this may have errors.

Questor Anime Magazine’s heyday was late 1990’s-very early 2000’s; when I graduated college it was already dying the slow death. Culture Crash’s heyday was somewhere in the middle of this, then it continued on for a few years before also losing steam. Otakuzine is the result of some of the Questor people moving on independently after finding new people, starting in the mid-2000s and still running. Mangaholix came in late-r 2000s but lost steam.

By 2005, Questor was already a fond memory, and Culture Crash practically gone. Bambi Eloriaga had already moved on…to working for Seven Seas Entertainment. And over the years she has helped recruit some of the best manga-type-drawing people of our country as illustrators for the Original English Manga line of the company: Jhomar Soriano, Hai! Ibardolaza, Jennyson Rosero, ‘Taga-Ilog’ Melvin Calingo, Aldin Viray, Kriss Sison, Elmer Damaso. Check the ‘properties’ section and see for yourself. If you’ve been wondering how the new Pasig releases and Ninja Girl Ko turned out looking so good, you have practice from the Seven Seas releases to partly thank.

This is new information to me, too. I know Seven Seas better for its manga releases. The only reason I started hunting around for this info is because I managed to find No Man’s Land volume 1 at a booksale store, and seeing Jennyson Rosero’s name in the front cover made me almost drop the volume. Seeing Taga-ilog named in the first few pages also made me gasp (he’s typesetter and cleaner).

John Parker, a decorated soldier of the Civil War, finds his family devastated by several otherworldly forces that have been ravaging the Wild West. Disappointed and tired, he leaves the bureaucratic system of the northern states. He becomes gun-for-hire No-Man. His main mission is to deal with all the various alien, erm, things that come out in the night and day killing and maiming innocent civilians and corrupt officials. He’s trying to right the wrongs he apparently did as a part of a detective agency, by going against his former bosses.

It IS a very good concept, and Rosero does an incredible job at bringing the story to life, with highly detailed and well-inked panels that always make sense, with awesome character presentation and with impeccable action panels. I don’t need to say much more about that. His work is professional-level all the way, no questions asked, no argument there. (Aside: there is ALIBATA in two pages of this work. For the win.)

But the mild dissonance between the cultural orientation of the writer (yes, I know, author has stayed in Japan and learned the culture, etc…but still) and that of the illustrator is also palpable. Parker does not look American, nor does he look bishonen Japanese. If anything, he looks like the Pasig Dante’s older brother–that is, cute and good-looking Pinoy as we like our cuties. Sound effects generally lean toward Pinoy-type sounds. When Parker is shown with an open shirt, you think somewhere in the line of Piolo Pascual, not your typical Japanese guy, and not your typical American hottie. This, in a story that is as spaghetti-western–thus, solidly American–as it could get, makes me feel odd, even if I did love all the artistic merit of the work. Finally…for the life of me, why does an English comic, even if manga-style, have to be right-to-left?! It’s as if the work has an identity crisis.

Also, for some reason, the comic does not have that feel that Pasig has. It feels, on the whole, too straight-laced, too technical. Like it has no real soul. It was done as all-caps WORK, not really with heart.

Don’t get me wrong; I did like this work. It is written and paced well, and drawn very well. I am very proud that my countrymen helped create this work. I definitely recommend the get as an ebook if you can.

But it also makes me wish, again, that our LOCAL komik industry would be so much better, and give our comic artists a chance to shine on their own feet, using scripts written by our own people, with our own unique take on things, with our distinct flavor.

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