Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 1
GN 2 - Phantom Blood
Now that Dio has put on the stone mask, he has become an apparently unstoppable force, using his new, evil powers to corrupt others and bring them to his side. Jojo finds that his wits and brute strength won't be enough to defeat his childhood foster brother, but fortunately for him, a mysterious man named Zeppeli finds him. With Zeppeli's mystical techniques, Jojo may at last stand a chance against Dio and his nefarious minions!
There is something appealing in a mad, manic way about Hirohiko Araki's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Even if you aren't a fan of over-the-top shounen/seinen action manga, it's hard to resist this series, and its introductory arc, Phantom Blood, just gets more intense as it goes on. In this second hardcover volume of Viz's deluxe release of the series, Jonathan Joestar, the first JoJo, starts to learn some of the iconic powers of the series as he attempts to bring down his power-crazed and literally bloodthirsty foster brother, Dio Brando. Dio, in the previous volume, completed his corruption by donning the mysterious Aztec relic, the stone mask, which activated latent powers in his brain and turned him into a vampire. (No, logic and science are not driving forces in this story.) Jojo brought back help from London, and in this book he does manage to stall Dio's rampage as his family home burns around them. But mere physical prowess is not going to be enough to take out a man who was bad enough before he gained vampiric abilities, and Jojo's going to need some serious help, especially since he's in 1888 England in a hospital.
Readers who know their history will notice that date – 1888 is the year the infamous Jack the Ripper carried out his ghastly deeds in London's Whitechapel district. Like many an author before him, Araki can't help but bring Jack into his story and offer an explanation for why his murder spree stopped so suddenly...because Dio turned him! This playful solution to the mystery is part and parcel of Araki's approach to history in this cycle of the story, and it helps to both immerse us in the Victorian setting and to increase the ludicrous factor, two techniques that simultaneously make you incredulous and totally unable to put the story aside. There is nothing too ridiculous or coincidental for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and that really is a large part of its appeal. Those cosmic coincidences run the gamut, from the aforementioned historical details to Jojo reuniting with his lost childhood love to the perfectly timed entrance on the scene of a new character who can train Jojo in Dio-defeating skills. This last would be Mr. Zeppeli (a note tells us that Araki always refers to the character as “mister”), a man who knows firsthand the dangers the stone mask poses and has learned how to work against its powers. He trains Jojo in “hamon,” ripple energy, which allows Jojo to manipulate his own natural energies and joints into awesome bursts of spectacularly controlled power.
Granted, this is something we've seen, like Jack the Ripper, countless times before, especially in shounen manga. Jojo's innate skill at hamon is a given, as is his ability to power up almost instantly, and even as Dio whips out bigger and better foes, we really don't doubt Jojo's ability to rise to the occasion. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that we can see Jojo's influence in some more contemporary titles (remember, Araki's manga dates to 1986), such as Monkey D. Luffy's ability to extend his limbs in Eiichiro Oda's One Piece – one of the powers of hamon is that users can disconnect their joints to extend their arms or legs to greater lengths. That really is part of the appeal of this series as well, particularly for those who enjoy older titles or the history of manga: its influence is visible in current manga.
That said, Araki's style is very distinct and getting moreso as this volume introduces new characters. The attractive faces on huge muscled bodies remains a key feature of Araki's art, with women's heads being in better proportion to their bodies. (Their clothing is also moderately more accurate to the time period.) This volume ups the grittiness quite a bit in the artwork, with more blood, dirt, and fighting in general, and Araki takes the time to show us Dio's full recovery from burns he sustains instead of going right from “crispy critter” to “perfectly healed.” The introduction of hamon gives Araki a bit more leeway to draw weird-looking arms and legs, but the anatomy is steadily growing worse whether or not the characters are fighting, with (male) bodies looking lumpy and awkward most of the time. Pages also feel more crowded and panels are increasingly busy as the book goes on, which can make for somewhat difficult reading. There are also fewer color pages this time, which is really only a shame in that the red-and-sepia coloring makes the pages a little easier to read more quickly.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood's second volume is actually more intense and fascinating than the first. As the story is getting into its groove, powers are unleashed and Jojo himself is having to do some serious growing up, even as he tries to retain his innate kindness. The new vampire/zombies Dio brings to the fight at the end of the book look more like fantasy vikings than Elizabethan knights (and Araki's view of the Mary Queen of Scots/Elizabeth situation is interesting), but it's hard to deny that the weirdness of the story makes it hard to put down. Jojo's adventures are getting increasingly bizarre indeed, and that makes for some good reading.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ So over-the-top and weird that it's a lot of fun, interesting take on vampires and their lore. Introduces Jojo's powers. Some very creative bad guy entrances.
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