The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek

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The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek

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Buy The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A manga adaptation of the first book in this urban fantasy series, which hits some of the right notes but still is lacking due to its very format.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 240 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 9780356502250

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Meet Tessa Gray. Summonsed to London to be with her brother after living in America, she has no idea what she is going to be in for. A kidnap and training at the hands of two witches is only the start of it as she is forced to find the truth about the world about her – about the two different kinds of supernatural beings, and of how they constantly fight against each other, and about her own unique origin, character and destiny that makes her more than a pawn in this battle. You might have met Tessa before, but not like this – for this is the manga adaptation of the series.

For those yet to be initiated in the style of manga, this may well not make them immediate converts, for it goes through the checklist of all that is wrong with the particular format of graphic novel, and ticks many of the boxes. Characters look too similar on the black and white page, and finding nuance in character behind huge, screaming speech bubbles is sometimes hard. Important fades-to-black can be found a third of the way down the page as if Japanese fiction never had a chapter break. The artist will always be eminent at swooshing weapons and kinetic movements across the page, but may for some reason turn everyone, of whatever age, into a childlike parody/caricature of them when he puts them in middle distance.

Beyond all that there is the problem that this book does not deserve the manga styling. It was probably more than reasonable anyway, and if any illustrated treatment should be given it it would have been better done as a straight, western graphic novel. Manga does not lend itself to people talking of demonic armies of automata pacing London railway bridges and threatening people in some non-specific Victorian fashions.

Still the evident abbreviation of the source novel does show up some of its virtues – to the fore, the exceedingly charged life Tessa has to face, forever waking up in a bed with someone leaning over her, anxious to say she is safe now and the enemy has been thwarted. There is a lot of thwarting to be had, and the urban fantasy shows its feminine side too when hearts get a-flutter and the characters, once eventually established, fit into their own peculiar relationships with each other. But as with all manga books, one needn't worry – a swipe of a sword or similar is never too far away.

I think I enjoyed this more than some examples of the genre because of the fresher look it has, being full of period costume and architectural detail. I would however have wished for a straighter adaptation, more in tune fully with the character of the original. This itself might inspire some manga fans to turn to the originals, and might persuade some Clare completists to give it a whirl, but while there is some cross-over between the audiences already, this may not go very far in expanding that.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud shows how to turn much-admired fantasy titles into comix. You might also appreciate Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.

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Buy The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Volume 1: The Manga (Manga Edition) by Cassandra Clare and HyeKyung Baek at Amazon.com.

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