Laon 6

July 25, 2011

YoungBin Kim / Hyun You – Yen Press – 2011 – 6 volumes

Hmm. On one hand, the story here made sense. Why Laon wasn’t collecting the rest of her tails herself, what happened to Young-You, and what all the other supernatural stuff was.

On the other hand, it was really condensed. The main “villain” for the series, Mago, is introduced and not explained very well, after not even having her name uttered once. The men behind the cult… their cause makes sense, and what they do makes sense, but to have all of that come up at once is a little much. It turns out that “order” and “chaos” have a lot to do with what’s been going on with the series, but as interesting as that is, it’s only sort of mentioned in passing as a label, and not really explained any further. That could’ve been very interesting.

But it’s not the most blatantly abridged story I’ve ever read. It probably would’ve done well with one, maybe two more volumes, but probably not more than that.

While the condensed story is a little hard to follow at first, it wasn’t bad. In fact, as I was reading it, yes, everything made a wonderful sort of sense, and it was a nice and truly epic conclusion to this series. Laon is a deity of sorts. The hwan are misunderstood. In a bizarrely surreal scene, Laon gets blown up to giant size and sits in the middle of downtown Seoul while the cult furthers their intentions.

The “order” and “chaos” affiliations, and what would’ve happened had everyone got what they wanted, were truly interesting. The way the story is told makes the “order” characters out to be the bad guys, but on the other hand, what the “good” guys want in this situation will destroy the world. As I said, the labels were quite interesting, and I do wish that there had been another volume or so to explore further.

The artwork stays fairly remarkable all the way through the end. The heavy outlines, high contrast, interesting character designs, and generally creepy way everything is drawn once again lend themselves to the dark conclusion. Someone in the comments mentioned that the artist drew the Tokyopop series Faeries’ Landing, and I was a big enough fan of the artwork here that I am finally going to check that series out. I’m so happy there’s more work available in English.

I don’t want to say too much more in order not to spoil it. The ending was good, though. While I did love the story and wonderful artwork, it’s probably not a series that will appeal to a lot of people outside the action genre. As big a fan as I am of stories based in folklore, this also isn’t really a series that can be enjoyed for its use of the nine-and-ten-tailed fox legends, since a lot of it reads more like boys’ comic action stuff written for the benefit of the series rather than real folklore. But it was a nice, quick read, and I was very satisfied with what it was. It was dark and demented in just the right ways, and it’s hard not to appreciate all the slightly weird touches it adds to everything. Plus, we really don’t get to see too many Korean boys’ comics in English, and I love it as an example of that.

This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.

Laon 5

July 20, 2011

YoungBin Kim / Hyun You – Yen Press – 2011 – 6 volumes

Hmm… the story changes here. It’s no longer about Laon finding her tails, and instead we are treated to a few different interesting plot lines about the hwan and other supernatural beings that are targeting Laon. It’s not clear why yet, other than it might have something to do with her having the powers of a nine-tailed fox without the combat abilities of seven of her tails. Maybe it makes her an easy target?

The first sotry is the continuation of the hwan story from last volume. Tae-Ha is trapped in a crossroads with a congressman and a few of his family members. The congressman is being haunted by his deceased, hwan-assisted wife, and his remaining family members are more than happy to throw him to the wolves, so to speak, in order to save their own lives. There is also a separate supernatural creature than nearly snares Laon in her net. She swears vengeance, blah blah blah.

The next story features this creature coming back for her revenge, some sort of creature that controls a large and influential cult that has played a part in the story before, and a girl that crosses over and apparently adores Laon.

The current story is difficult to explain, but it is chaotic and intense, and the action/horror style that I love in this series is out in full force. Again, I’m a little sad to see that volume 6 is the last, because not only does that mean we aren’t going to get a satisfying wrap-up for the story of Laon’s tails, it likely means that all the stuff that’s currently going down isn’t going to make much sense, but will wrap up the plot nicely anyway.

The art is still fantastic, and it matches the mood and action of the series perfectly. I love the heavy outlines, the creature designs, the deranged expressions on people’s faces… all of it.

I can’t wait to see how things end. There are a lot of questions left for one volume to answer. Laon’s tails, of course, but what about Tae-Ha’s lover? Will he remember, or find out what happened to her now that she’s “mother?” Hmm, I think that might be tied into the current story, come to think of it, so hopefully that one will be addressed.

Laon 4

July 11, 2011

YoungBin Kim / Hyun You – Yen Press – 2011 – 6 volumes

The final volume of this series just came out! It’s somewhat rare for a Korean boys’ comic to be translated into English, and I really like the art and the plot in this one. I’m curious as to how the story will resolve itself in three more volumes, though. There’s only one way to find out.

The first half of the volume is the continuation of the story about the gifted singer and Laon’s second tail. It’s a pretty straightforward story, save for the fact that the benefits aren’t quite what they seem. The female singer was an interesting character, and I also thought it was interesting when Tae-Ha nearly pushed Laon into losing the lead on her tail. As much as she seems to like him, she’s still pretty savage.

There are otherworldly hints sprinkled throughout, but nothing much has been revealed just yet. That a wider picture is opening up is a little worrying with only two volumes left, but again, I’m curious to see how this goes.

The next story is one about a regular demon, a hwan as opposed to one of Laon’s tails, and it looks like it might unlock parts of Tae-Ha’s past. The story itself is about a “haunted” mansion and various people caught up in the hwan’s power, but the hwan seems to be specifically targeting Laon.

I like this series a lot. It’s great at the horrifying moments, the art is pretty dark and slick, and wonderful during action scenes, and I definitely like the mythology it plays around in and the stories it uses to advance the main plot. It’s not rush-out-and-buy-it good, but it is a really solid story, and very enjoyable to action/horror fans. I feel like I should comment on this volume a bit more, but I plan on reading the next two this week to finish the story up, so I’ll hold off judgment on the main plot until I’m finished, or at least have a better sense of how it will be paced up until the end.

Laon 3

February 13, 2011

YoungBin Kim / Hyun You – Yen Press – 2010 – 6 volumes

Hmm… Yen Press’s page indicates that volume six is the last of the series. I wonder if it was cut short, because as of volume 3, Laon has only one of her nine tails. I’d hate to see the other eight crammed into three volumes, after the story does such a good job unfolding.

My favorite part of this volume was not the resolution to the recovery of Laon’s first tale, but the unrelated story that came afterwards. Tae-Ha gets several tips about supernatural activity taking place at the same location, so he takes a road trip to the place. Unfortunately, his car breaks down in the middle of a storm, and he is forced to stay overnight with a starving brother and sister in a broken-down house. Things get weird when it becomes apparent that their house is at the nexus of a major supernatural pathway. Things get terrifying, gruesome, and maybe a little touching as the bizarre story reaches its conclusion. Tae-Ha also gains a helpful item as thanks. It was a great story, simply because it was the right mix of bizarre and scary, and also because it did a good job of revealing everything slowly while keeping some details maddeningly under wraps until the end.

And yeah, there is the rather short resolution to the story of how Laon gains her first tail, and most of a second story that takes up the later half of the volume. It’s music-focused, and might have something to do with fame and attention. Tae-Ha is sent out to ruin the reputation of the idol that the tail seems to be attracted to, and Laon reveals that each of her tails has a different magical use, with the second being very useful indeed.

I still really love the art in this series, too. It uses a lot of heavy outlines and some craziness for background and clothing designs, especially whenever we see Laon. In fact, the art always looks its best, with the best compositions and everything else, when Laon is being drawn. It looks great, exactly like a crazy supernatural series should.

It upsets me that this may have been cut short, but I am looking forward to seeing how the story progresses through what must be the second half of the plot. The fourth volume just came out, and I’ll probably be picking it up soonish.

Laon 2

October 2, 2010

YoungBin Kim / Hyun You – Yen Press – 2010 – 6+ volumes

Hm. The second volume was more or less the same as the first. Lots of great ideas, and some pretty fantastic and dynamic art, but there’s just something lacking about the story. I don’t know. Maybe I’m expecting a little too much from it, because I think back, and I realize this volume was all about one of Laon’s tails possessing a woman who goes on a killing spree, tries to turn her former human daughter into a vessel for a nine-tailed fox demon, and is eventually nearly killed by the ghost of the woman she inhabits. How is that not cool? It plays out over the course of a serial murder spree involving members of the reporter community, with each death predicted in a premature obituary.

Putting it like that, there is nothing wrong with it. The book is pretty good. But somehow, I was… a little bored by all the stylish action. It moves around pretty quickly, with the only explanation that somehow, evil magic is afoot. I have little idea what’s going on in Laon’s world, which is frustrating. I don’t know the limits or powers or anything of the magical creatures afoot here.

But my thought that it is lacking a little something to support all its good ideas may just be because I read it on a bad day, or in the wrong frame of mind or something. It’s a decent series so far, and I am looking forward to what happens when Laon gets her tails back. Does she get slowly older? Do her powers increase? When will she get her “ears” back? does getting even a little power back help her find her tails? It does leave a lot of fun and interesting possibilities open, and I will definitely continue reading.

Laon 1

August 14, 2010

YoungBin Kim / Hyun You – Yen Press – 2010 – 6+ volumes

For some reason, I felt guilty about not starting a new Yen Press series this year, and I love folktale-inspired series, so here I am with the first couple volumes of Laon.

Honestly, the most interesting thing so far has been the art. The art is pretty fantastic, with lots of thick, heavy outlines, lots of black, and lots of crazy angles and facial expressions. The flow of the story is helped immensely by the art, and I think this would have fizzled and died about halfway through if not for that.

The story is decent though, a good first volume that could develop into a fantastic action series. Laon is a young and confused supernatural being that butts heads with Tae-Ha, a man working at a National Enquirer-like newspaper in a dead-end reporter position. Laon is determined to find the Gumiho that stole his ears and tail, and Tae-Ha wants to help him. Sort of. Tae-Ha doesn’t like Laon, or much of anything, and Laon tends to beat him up and embarrass him a lot. It looks like the formula will follow the two as they go out on reporter investigations that Laon solves with his powers.

The investigation in this volume was pretty twisted, with a 16-year-old girl being held captive by her religious and very insane father, thinking that her pregnancy was immaculate and divine, the girl begging for help when Tae-Ha comes by dressed as a priest. Of course there’s some supernatural and parasitic bad stuff at work, and Laon helps settle things. It’s all very creepy and dramatic, and the art helps immensely.

Laon isn’t very likable at this point, one of those confused and forceful characters dropped from what seems to be the far past into modern times. The jokes about how he doesn’t know what anything is, and doesn’t know when the right time to use his powers, are already wearing thin. His severe case of bouncing from one thing to the next is also aggravating. Tae-Ha also has a sad lost lover and case of amnesia that isn’t very interesting right now… honestly the nine-tailed fox folklore and the art are what is making this worth reading. The folklore parts are very interesting, and it’s already dipped farther into the fox legends than anything that I’ve ever seen. The prospect of Laon gaining his powers little by little does make me want to read more. As does Laon’s gender ambiguity. That is, so far, really bizarre stuff.

Honestly, the bland flavor of everything else does seem like the kind of thing that will get better as the characters and story develop, so I’ve got no problem reading on into the second volume. The first volume is funky and unusual, and it did grab my attention, so it did its job well.