Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Alien invaders known as “bugs” have begun to invade South Korea via mysterious (and destructive) ducts known as “halls.” Since the halls and bugs dissolve any matter they come into contact with, measures must be taken, and a para-military group known as Clarus Orbis has been created. The members of Clarus Orbis use magic to fight off the alien invasion, and generally run a tight ship, but one rogue commander, Gayoon, threatens this order, callously throwing away his soldiers and generally acting like a jerk. Chaeun is the only soldier to survive his command, bound to Gayoon by emotions he doesn't entirely understand. His friends feel that this is self-destructive behavior...and so does the mysterious (and hot) Moonhoo, one of a group of renegades known as “core hunters” who have their own plans for the halls and bugs. Will Chaeun continue on his journey with Gayoon? Or will Moonhoo awaken some very different emotions in him...?
We don't see nearly the level of manhwa translated into English as manga, which is a shame. Now that NetComics is back in the physical publishing game, however, there are some new titles appearing on the market, and whether you're a fan of manhwa in general or just looking for a series that's somewhat off the beaten path, they're a good publisher to keep an eye on. Core Scramble's first volume confirms that with its melding of science fiction and fantasy, spicing up its interesting concept with a BL romance.
The story takes place in a version of Seoul where aliens have begun putting in a destructive appearance. Gateways to another dimension, known as “halls,” will suddenly show up and begin dissolving anything they come into contact with – humans, walls, cars, you name it. Sometimes they also allow aliens called “bugs” to come through, who are equally as destructive of human life. Not all people can see these menaces (only their results), and those who can are taught to weave magic in order to contain and repel the unwelcome visitors. One such human is Chaeun, who as a child was terrified by the strange things he could see eating up his neighborhood. One day he spotted a young man taking one down, and he begged the man for help. Although he was ignored, soldiers from Clarus Orbis, a military organization trained in the removal of halls and bugs, came soon after, saving Chaeun's home. Young Chaeun began to fixate on the cold man who had ignored him (yet ultimately saved him), Gayoon, and as an adult he became a soldier under Gayoon's direct command, still stuck with his worshipful feelings.
That, as it turns out, is a problem, because the best semi-polite word for Gayoon is “ass.” Gayoon makes it clear that he doesn't care about his soldiers, the people of the city, or, well, anything but his own ego and pleasure. No one understands why Chaeun sticks with him, including Chaeun himself. Even though it isn't romantic, their relationship is classically abusive, with Gayoon hurting his subordinate physically and psychologically more and more as the volume goes on. If this was the only potential relationship in the book, we'd have a real problem, but fortunately Jun contrasts it with another that has less wrong with it. Moonhoo, the attractive rebel who is part of a rogue group after the halls and bugs known as “Core Hunters,” sees Chaeun return from a battle that Gayoon abandoned. He becomes fascinated with the other man, and begins seeking him out. While he's going to be too touchy-feely for some readers – from the first meeting, Moonhoo can't keep his hands to himself – it's clear that he's got a burgeoning romantic interest in Chaeun, and by the end of the volume that is starting to look mutual. There's a clear parallel being set up in Chaeun's relationships with Gayoon and Moonhoo, and even he can see that Moonhoo looks like the winner. The question thus becomes not whether he likes Moonhoo, but whether or not he can bring himself to sever his emotional dependency on Gayoon...and, as one violent scene shows, whether or not Gayoon can stand to let him go, as he clearly thrives on the knowledge that such a good soldier is somehow devoted to him.
Euho Jun's art is fairly standard for BL stories, with the men being a bit more muscular than we often see, though still generally thin and willowy. The pages are packed with panels, which occasionally causes confusion, but on the whole is easy to read. She is especially good with giving a sense of motion or power to magic-using scenes, where just the outward thrust of an arm can convey the force that is being deployed. Net Comics has some unusual quality issues with this book, which is a shame, using “you're” instead of “your” at one point and some awkward phrasing throughout. There is also one page where a speech bubble is too close to the binding; while you know what's being said, you can't actually read all the words.
Despite these issues, Core Scramble's first volume begins an interesting story, one that really comes together more the further you read. At only three volumes, this isn't a big investment and it has potential with its melange of elements and the parallels between Chaeun's relationships. Given that this has already been translated into French and Japanese, it seems a decent bet that it will continue to be an interesting read from here on out.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Interesting differences in Chaeun's relationships with Moonhoo and Gayoon, story set up is not typical BL, with a focus on the battles as well as the romance. Attractive art, blend of science fiction and fantasy works.
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