By: Giannis Milonogiannis
Format: Hardcover, 6 x 9, black & white, $14.95
Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf
The world as we know it has been wiped out by a flood and rebuilt by technology companies, primarily the all-powerful Hayashi Corporation. Cyborgs are commonplace and function as citizens. The moon has been annexed. In rebuilt Athens, police detective Solano has his hands full investigating the murder of Hayashi himself, whose former company suspiciously refuses to cooperate. Pressure builds as the Special Police department is forced to merge with another unit, leading Solano to form a partnership with Ella Thermidor of the Mobile Guns, who pilots a giant cybernetic suit. Together they work to unravel the secret of Hayashi's murder, a mystery that leads them into the no-man's land of the Old City.
Milonogiannis excels at introducing his world with minimum explanation. The rules of this apocalyptic society are revealed slowly and naturally, through the merging of distinct special police forces who suddenly need to learn from each other, as well as the ongoing investigation that leads the central characters to different environments including both the Old City and the Hayashi Corporation's heavily guarded headquarters. The story moves forward at a fast pace and never gets bogged down in narration, allowing readers to fill in the blanks and explore this world for themselves. This first volume includes a complete narrative as well as a bonus short story, and presents a satisfying read that raises a number of tantalizing questions for readers to mull over and room for further adventures in future volumes.
The black and white artwork is splashy and frenetic, rich with texture. Everything gives the impression of action, even in scenes of simple dialogue; characters are usually depicted from extreme angles, motion lines abound and the solid, angular shapes of buildings and bridges in the backgrounds are always in tension with chaotic swirls of smoke and dashes of pouring rain that transform solid ground into a dynamic mass of elegantly scribbled puddles. Character designs are minimalist but distinctive, with more detail lavished on the cyborgs and cybernetic suits. Layouts range from standard grids to diagonally angled panels in climactic scenes that ramp up the action by giving the impression that the page has been slashed with a sharp knife. The story builds to a climax with a cinematic flair, deftly alternating busy, action-packed moments with quiet stillness.
While some serious themes come into play, such as the contradictory uses of high and low technology, the story is mainly concocted for maximum thrills and fun. In a bonus feature that describes the story's origins and artist's process, Milonogiannis explains that "the idea was to write stories based on what I felt like drawing and to channel all the stuff I loved as a kid." This spontaneous, enjoyment-centered approach serves to benefit the story, keeping it constantly in motion and never weighed down with extraneous filler.
While there is plenty of violence in Old City Blues, it is highly stylized and should not disturb many readers. Murder occurs mainly, although not exclusively, with cyborgs. The dialogue includes frequent swearing, suggesting that this book is most appropriate for teens and older readers. With its intriguing mystery and unique futuristic setting, Old City Blues should appeal to fans of mysteries, science-fiction, police drama and Seinen manga.