by Theron Martin,

Zombie Powder

GN 3

Zombie Powder GN 3
Emilio, the younger brother of the muckraking journalist Wolfina, has had a Ring of the Dead fused into his body, leaving him in a coma. That makes him a target for Balmunk, the mystic leader of a circus troupe, who steal Emilio's body. With the help of Gamma Akutabi, Elwood, and C.T. Smith, who are on their own quest for the Zombie Powder-producing Rings of the Dead, Wolfina pursues Balmunk to his circus, where the gang finds themselves locked into individual battles against the circus troupe's colorful performers/combatants. But it seems that Balmunk has an additional motive for fighting Gamma specifically, one that goes back to their earlier days when Gamma took on a more monstrous identity.

If you're looking for an all-out action tale involving bizarre villains with bizarre abilities trying to kill the heroes in clever ways while the heroes beat them down with superior skill and/or power, then the third volume of Tite Kubo's first manga series is something you will probably appreciate, regardless of whether or not you've actually read the previous two. That is the entire sum and substance of the seven relatively short chapters presented here: hero fights strange bad guy with spectacular abilities mano-a-mano while usually revealing something about himself/herself. That the bad guys with their quirky abilities exist only to aggrandize themselves and provide a unique challenge to their foes (the only significant character development appears in the “B-Side Naked Monkeys” profiles at the end of each chapter) is irrelevant since they are, of course, only present to be defeated. They are all clearly psychotic killers, so what more motivation is needed?

Tite's use of a circus troupe to provide a mixed bag of unique and colorful foes is nowhere close to a new gimmick – American comics have been using it for decades – but his version is more outlandish than most. A guy named “Guiffle the Great Undead Box” who can subdivide himself into stacked boxes? A flamethrower named “Pyromaniac Pownder” who wields two giant matches? And of course, what would a group of freaks like this be without the super-fat villain? The various battles do provide small amounts of insight into each of the main characters, but on the whole this is pure turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-it shonen fare. While it certainly gives ample doses of high-powered action, many other titles do it better and show it cleaner. Only inventiveness counts in Zombie Powder's favor.

Kubo's character designs show a propensity for small-framed women with prominent, rounded bosoms, while adult male characters tend to have the impossibly lanky builds common in shojo titles. The visual representations of most heroes and villains depends heavily on common stereotypes (albeit not always manga stereotypes), with the only truly distinctive-looking character being C.T. Smith. Kubo's artwork has the kind of roughness to it one would expect of a first-time effort, but he so heavily emphasizes the posturing and action elements that they carry what is otherwise truly ordinary-looking work. Backgrounds more frequently consist of motion lines than any actual detail, with the overriding philosophy seeming to be that it is not detailed if it is not necessary for supporting the action.

Viz Media publishes this title under its Shonen Jump Manga label, which provides a decent full-color cover and all of Kubo's front, end, and side notes. It translates all the sound effects in a manner doubtless intended to reflect the style and shape of the originals, but its lettering gives the effect that the characters are always shouting. Because the main volume only covers 148 pages of regular story and four pages of comical “day in the life” character focuses, a lengthy Rune Master Urara short story, which features even rougher artwork but better writing and storytelling, caps out the volume to a more typical length.

The juvenile level of the storytelling shows little of the depth and refinement (relatively speaking) that can be seen in Kubo's later, more famous work Bleach, and the action scenes work only moderately well, so this is primarily a title for Kubo completists. Otherwise you can find much better manga elsewhere which shows the same kind of fare and looks better doing it.

Production Info:
Overall : C
Story : C-
Art : C

+ Lots of inventive action.
Rough artwork, little to storytelling beyond the action.

Story & Art: Tite Kubo

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Zombie Powder (manga)

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