Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Part 3
GN 1 - Stardust Crusaders (GN 1)
It is now 1989 and the saga of the Joestar family moves to Japan, where Joseph's grandson Jotaro Kujo has taken up the mantle of “Jojo.” Unlike Jonathan and Joseph, Jotaro has suddenly begun manifesting a strange spirit helper, so he refuses to leave his jail cell after a minor infraction, out of fear that he'll hurt others. Fortunately, Grandpa Joseph arrives from America to fill him in on what's happening. This is all because the evil Dio has been resurrected in Jonathan's body, giving the Joestars spirit powers known as “stands.” The only way for Jotaro to get rid of them is to find Dio and kill him even deader than last time. So now it's off to Egypt for two generations of Joestars to put an end to the man who started the whole thing…again.
It can sometimes feel like a shame for an author to kill off a particularly excellent bad guy. Thinking about it in that light, it's impressive that Hirohiko Araki was able to keep Dio Brando, the arch-nemesis of Jonathan Joestar and the man responsible for his untimely death, out of the picture for all of Battle Tendency, because while the Pillar Men were good villains, they were still no Dio. But now with a need to increase the already ridiculous powers of the Joestar clan, Dio is back, hauled up from the depths by foolish treasure hunters, and his mere return is enough to cause havoc for his sworn enemies.
This is largely due to the fact that Dio, whose head was removed from his body by Jonathan Joestar of Phantom Blood, somehow used his powers to graft his head onto Jonathan's body. So not only is this immortal prancing around in the body of a hamon user in his prime, it had an unintended result of linking the living Joestars to him physically, thanks to the revelation that all of Jonathan's descendants bear a star-shaped birthmark on their shoulders. While this does feel like something that Araki came up with at the last minute to justify their (English) family name, it also gives him the chance to kick things up a notch with their hereditary powers. While not all Joestars had the ability to use hamon, their natural life-energy based powers – Joseph's father George didn't – all of them can manifest a new ability, known as a “stand.” The caveat is that not all of them can control it.
This brings us to Stardust Crusaders' main plot. High school student Jotaro Kujo, the son of Joseph's daughter Holly and her Japanese husband, is a good kid at heart but with the actions and exterior of a thug. When he begins to notice that a ghostly arm has started sprouting from his shoulder and interfering in his life, he gets nervous that he'll hurt people, so he gets himself thrown in jail and refuses to budge. Frightened and concerned, Holly calls her father to come from America, and Joseph arrives bearing both news of Dio's return and an Egyptian companion who has his own “ghost.” The two explain that the spirits are actually helpful beings known as “stands” because they “stand beside you” to fight. Each stand is represented by one of the tarot's major arcana, and once a user learns to control it, it becomes a major weapon.
The replacement of hamon with stands is both understandable and a bit of a disappointment. A large part of the fun in the first two parts of the series were the insane physical abilities and contortions achieved by the characters via hamon, so it will be a shame if that element leaves the story altogether. The hamon also provided a focus for Joseph, after whom Jotaro takes more from than Jonathan in his demeanor, so it feels like it could still be necessary for him to fully mature as a character. Of course, this is only the first volume, and Joseph does use hamon at one point, so there's a good chance that the two powers will work together as the fight with Dio draws closer. In the meantime, it seems like stands can be used by people who might not otherwise be so gifted, specifically those chosen by Dio to fight Jojo. By implanting a needle of his own flesh into their heads, Dio can control stand users, meaning that anyone on the street can become a formidable enemy. The good news is that Jojo's stand is precise enough to remove those needles, so he can convert some enemies to allies if given the chance.
It's very clear that the plot is only getting started at this point, as Jojos Two and Three head off to confront Dio in the body of Jojo One, assembling a team as they go. Seeing Joseph and Jotaro team up is particularly nice, given that Joseph never got to know his older male relatives, and it also cuts out the need to find a trainer for both Jojos to incorporate into their quests. The use of major arcana to represent each stand is interesting, and Jotaro's being card 17, The Star, indicates that he is representative of the Joestars' (and perhaps the world's) new hope. According to A.E. Waite, one of the better known members of the Spiritualist movement, the card is also known as “Hope” and can represent supernatural understanding, which Jotaro will certainly need to take out Dio. More modern readers of the cards may disagree with this interpretation, but given the style in which Araki draws his own tarot within the book, he seems to be following Waite's basics.
As always, the rest of Araki's art is a mix of Silver Age American comics, the manlier aspects of seinen art (despite the fact that this was published in a shounen magazine), and an almost absurd amount of lines. There's an increasing sense of the fabulous in terms of poses and dress, as the 1989 setting allows Araki to play with patterns, accessories, and hairstyles in a way that previous time periods did not. All of this can make the book difficult to read because it's consistently busy and you can get stuck wondering where someone's other leg went, but it does work with the story being told. As a note, this is the second time this series has been published in English, and the credits on the copyright page list translators, adapters, and editors for both this new edition and the previous one, which may indicate some similarities in translation.
Stardust Crusaders is definitely living up to its predecessors in its first volume. Although the story and plot are just being established, there's a sense of scale on which the tale will be told, and the inclusion of Holly shakes things up from previous arcs. If you've stuck with the Jojos this far, there's no reason to stop now – especially with Dio lying in wait somewhere in the deserts of Egypt.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Stands allow for further story and superpower opportunities, having two Jojos team up works well, Dio is a terrific bad guy
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