Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Joy is average in every way – the second daughter of a restaurant owner, she's not quite smart enough for a top college, not quite pretty enough for male attention, and not quite happy with the way her life is going. All of that changes, however, when one night on her way home she runs into the middle of what appears to be a supernatural battle. When one of the participants saves her, he's suddenly overcome with some strong emotion – and before either of them know what's happening, he's kissed her and gained even greater powers. Joy flees the scene, but the next thing she knows, a woman is at her family's home telling her that she's been accepted into South Korea's most mysterious and prestigious university. Could it be that there's something much less average about Joy than she's always thought?
Netcomics, online translator and purveyor of official manhwa releases, has previously mostly kept its serialized stories on its own website with its proprietary reader. While that reader is easy to use, their payment system and the need to have a fully separate reading place has made it perhaps a little less appealing for readers like myself, who prefer to have things in one more centralized location. That is beginning to change, however, and several of their newer titles are now available in serialized chapters via Amazon (although not, as of this writing, on Comixology), and for fans of Wann, creator of such addictively readable titles as Can't Lose You and Give to the Heart, the good news is that her series Collide is one of them.
The story's first four chapters (which are roughly analogous to a first collected volume going by page count) are still very much in the introductory phases of the plot. In them we meet Joy, a young South Korean woman who feels like she's not all that special. She's not brilliant or gorgeous or anything else that might make her stand out, and she's frankly not all that thrilled about it, although she does accept it as the reality of her life. It's mainly frustrating in that she's applying to colleges and her family can't afford to sent her out of Seoul where she'd have to board out – but her scores on the entrance exams aren't good enough for city universities. It isn't so much that Joy wants to be different as she wants opportunities that don't appear to be available to her as the daughter of a chicken restaurant owner.
All of this changes, however, with typical Wann dramatics – while walking home one night, Joy stumbles across what she assumes to be a group of stuntmen filming an action scene, but which is actually a supernatural battle of some kind. Caught off-guard, Joy is almost injured when a (handsome) young man drops down in front of her and saves her…and then, apparently overcome by powerful romance novel emotions, kisses her. Oddly this appears to boost his powers, but as far as Joy is concerned, it's all some kind of freaky nightmare scenario and she runs for it. Naturally that's not the case – Joy, as it turns out, is the bearer of some special supernatural genes that make her insanely powerful and also draw other supernatural people to her – physically. Because of this, albeit without any explanation whatsoever, Joy suddenly finds herself offered a scholarship to South Korea's most prestigious and mysterious university.
Obviously a large part of the issue with these chapters is that Joy is kept in the dark as to what's actually going on. No one bothers to tell her that she's a Zero, or that her powers are pretty much relegated to “battery pack for other supernaturals.” This robs her of her own agency within the story, and while it does stand to change – and she's already beginning to figure out that something weird is going on – right now it doesn't make her a particularly compelling heroine. That she's being kept ignorant on purpose is also troubling, although it makes more sense as a potential plot device, because the heads of the school are clearly planning to use her to manipulate Moowon, the young man who kissed her during the battle. Moowon is famously cold and disinterested in other people, women especially, and the fact that he acted on his attraction to Joy is of great interest to the heads of the university, who also run some sort of probably shady organization. Moowon has steadfastly refused to join them, so it seems that they're banking on him being unable to resist a job protecting Joy from the predations of other supernaturally-powered men as a way to rope him in.
That Moonwon doesn't seem to be able to stop himself from taking them up on it, although he's clearly angry about it, would seem to indicate that they may be on to something – right now. What they're not thinking about, however, is the fact that both Joy and Moowon are very powerful, so it would make sense that if they were to form a team that power would increase dramatically. It feels altogether possible that the two of them will become a resistance force to whatever's going on in the shadows of South Korea's supernatural world, and when we look at Wann's previous work on Give to the Heart, it's clear that she has the chops to pull such a story off compellingly. Given that there are currently almost 100 chapters available of the series, a slow start is forgivable; it will, however, need to start picking up within the next approximate volume or so in order to make Joy less of a damsel in distress figure, which right now is the most off-putting piece of the story.
Collide's first rough volume isn't a perfect start, but it is intriguing. Serialized in full-color, it's an interesting read with some very pretty art, and if things aren't quite up to Wann's usual standard yet, it is showing signs of getting there. If you've enjoyed her work in the past or are just looking for a slightly different reading experience, this is worth checking out.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Nice art, story has potential
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