Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 2
GN 1 - Battle Tendency
Fifty years have passed since the end of Phantom Blood. Now in 1938, his grandson Joseph Joestar has just moved to America with grandmother Erina. Jonathan's old friend Speedwagon, now an oil magnate, has found mysterious and dangerous ruins in Mexico that might shed light on the stone mask that allowed Dio to commit his crimes, but in the course of the investigation he has vanished. Now Joseph, the new JoJo, must travel to Mexico to find his grandfather's friend and learn more about the stone masks...and tangle with some Nazis!
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the final volume of Part One: Phantom Blood.
No where outside of an eighteenth century Gothic novel can you find melodrama and ridiculous supernatural events handled as seriously as they are in Hirohiko Araki's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. That's part of what makes it so great – reality has very little say in what happens and everything is a Major Serious Event, no matter how seemingly inconsequential: if Araki brings it up, it matters, be it cops smearing snot on JoJo's face or underground lairs of Nazi scientists in Mexico trying to revive Aztec vampires, both of which are plot points in the first volume of JoJo's second part, Battle Tendency.
The story picks up fifty years after Jonathan Joestar died ridding the world of Dio Brando on what had to be the worst honeymoon ever. He and wife Erina did have a chance to conceive a child before his passing, and now his grandson, Joseph Joestar, has taken up the mantle of JoJo. In 1938 he and grandmother Erina have just come to New York City at the behest of Speedwagon, Jonathan's old friend who has become an oil magnate. Speedwagon discovered something strange in the jungles of Mexico that might shed light on Dio's rampage fifty years earlier, but before he can tell JoJo and Erina, he is presumed killed by a former ally turned evil. JoJo, being JoJo, doesn't believe that this is possible, so he hops on his motorcycle and heads for Mexico to find out what's really going on. This being 1938, the answer will of course involve Nazis and the start of WWII.
The most striking thing about Battle Tendency is how very different Joseph is from Jonathan. They share a physical resemblance (Araki tells us that this is because it was unheard of for a main character to be killed in Shounen Jump at the time, so he needed some continuity to make up for it), but Joseph is much more brash than his grandfather. Where Jonathan was basically a sweet guy at heart, unable to understand how anyone could be as cruel as Dio and learning how to fight him as a last resort, Joseph is hot-headed and quick to physical action. We first meet him when he's just arrived in New York and a young black boy steals his wallet. Angered by the police's treatment of the boy, Smokey, JoJo proceeds to beat the crap out of them. This is pretty much how he operates: get mad, throw hamon or punches. He still has Jonathan's kind heart and a keen sense of justice, which does help to balance things out. He's also clearly devoted to those he cares for, as we can see in his insistence on going to save Speedwagon.
If it's possible, Araki's art has gotten even more physically improbable with this new arc. It at times becomes difficult to tell what body part is where, and not just when the ancient vampire Speedwagon has found in the ruins distorts and reduces himself to slip into small spaces. Bodies look almost segmented with the way Araki draws muscles, and women are basically muscle men with sweeter faces and breasts. (They also seem to dress more 1890s than 1930s, but historical accuracy has never been the series' forte.) Araki's usual inconsistency with hair and clothes are present and accounted for, with hair evolving to fit the characters' moods and how much space there happens to be in the panel, and mullets abound, even when the characters don't start the page with one.
As with the first arc, Battle Tendency has a fairly diverse cast, which may cause some issues at first glance. While Smokey is assuredly not a stupid or lesser character, he is drawn with, shall we say, a disregard for cultural sensitivity, and the same is true for the pig-nosed policemen and the Mexican thugs JoJo meets. Despite that, a lot of care is taken to mention (perhaps a bit too often) that the characters are able to see beyond appearances and affiliations to come to respect each other. It gets hammered in a bit too hard to be really effective, but it's a nice message, and not one we often see in stories involving Nazi scientists.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency is off to an exciting, action-packed, and melodramatic start. With the new JoJo slowly assembling parts of his grandfather's old crew, the backdrop of looming war, and the promise of three new evil vampires with stone masks, this looks like it will be just as crazy a ride as Phantom Blood was. Strap in and hold on – JoJo's new adventure is going full blast.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B-
+ Melodramatic story and art make this a ton of fun, some interesting themes about seeing past appearances. New JoJo really feels like a totally different character. Book looks great and even has a full-color chapter.
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