Written by Hanzo Steinbach
Published by TokyoPop
A man whom I admire greatly once told me that a being like me could never really truly love. And maybe he was right. Maybe my immersion into the world of humanity opened my mind to the possibility of love… Love as an intellectual concept. But no matter how much I elate myself in the brilliant spheres of the romantic, the heart in me remains cold… and forever will.
This line, pulled from the final page of the manga series A Midnight Opera, is a shining example of what I hate most in modern takes on vampires and werewolves. Anne Rice’s infernal Interview with the Vampire and its insipid siblings are responsible for the pretentious pondering preternatural plugs we have to digest as horror these days.
The development of a conscience in vampires, werewolves, Oompah loompas, and related creatures has released the literary world to wallow in its own self mourning for the state of the undead. Having remorse for their victims, feeling lonely as they travel through eons of time, and pining over the disconnect they feel between modern time and the time from whence they came is a trick that was novel at its inception, but has since grown tiresome on a level par with repeats of “Full House”.
Can you imagine a repentant Cthulhu? Considering suicide, deep in the lonely depths of the ocean, sulking about how he is so misunderstood by everyone who misinterprets the dreams he sends them. Eghad!
Thankfully we get to wallow in the undead masturbatory pity party for full length mangas in A Midnight Opera. The tale of two undead brothers who have grown apart but now must come together to face down numerous foes who wish to end their endless suffering. To be entirely fair, A Midnight Opera is not always about whining werewolves and vampires; it does try to spice up the dull recipe with action. Alas this brings me to ever woeful artwork by author and artist Hans “Hanzo” Steinbach.
Here is where we run into another major problem with the book. Opera reads front to back, unlike true mangas, but the layout of the pages could not be more confusing. Hans leaves pages full of long lines and thin drawings that bleed them together in a blankness that does not befit the motion he is trying to convey. Contrast this with darkened pages with so much shading upon shading that they eye is unable to discern what is happening easily. Now try to imagine several type of font depicting thought ideas, spoken ideas, and sometimes differing characters or moods. Each page is a disaster in clutter and lost ideas. It is as if Hans was trying to draw every 4th frame. Too much is implied, and the wrong ideas are shown.
Let me use the design of the character as a point of reference. The lead character, Einblich DeLalune (groan), is a long lean character with droopy shoulders, legs and arms as big around as broomsticks, and a scruffy angular face that is always in a permanent pout. He is supposed to embody the perfect brooding hero. His physique is poised to imply a soft, unimposing hero, whose arms are made to deftly wrap around the body of the woman he loves. Conversely, he then erupts into fast moving shows of acrobatic cunning an superhuman sped and strength. When I see this happen I picture a balsa wood plane trying to erupt out in supersonic speed. A fantastic way to make toothpicks brought to you by the makers of physics!
Am I being too harsh? Maybe. But I really took nothing from the story that would have made any of these faux pas any more forgivable. Einblich, known to his peeps as Ein, is unwilling to meet with his estranged brother Laroux, who has come to warn him of impending danger. Laroux also has a definite problem with Ein’s taking of a girlfriend. There are pages of the two of them discussing what happened to another woman Ein was in love with, all the while Ein rebuts that it will not happen again. There are endless images of flailing leggy cartoons bitch smacking the hell out of each other. Injected within this is some silliness that is sadly misplaced.
Did I mention that Ein is a rock star? Now there is some originality. A rock star who masquerades as a creature of the night . This is such a blaring rip off that Lestat must surely be rolling over in his grave. Unfortunately, the book layers in the brooding musician scenes with the poorly orchestrated action and the banal pretentious undead discussions. Thank God he took Anne Rice back to his fold, because apparently she did enough damage to last a long, long time.
The first volume ends with Laroux asking Ein if he is ready to accept a vague proposition to fight for their survival against a faceless group of different monsters. During Ein’s ever so beleaguered acceptance is a sprinkling of attempts to build some sort of romance between Ein and some chick I refuse to remember the name of. The dialogue here is heavy, and the art is atrocious, earmarking the final pages of the book as some of the worst.
The second volume tries to expand the story as well as the scope, but gets completely lost in the process. The one shining point here is the fleshing out of one of the threats facing the brothers Ein and Laroux, the incomparable Elizabeth Bathory steps out of a bloody tub and attempts to grow into the most compelling character in the books.
As a jilted lover of Laroux and Ein, she holds a grudge. And somehow she is connected to Victor Frankenstein…
What? I reread volume 1 twice and never got the impression that any of the people in it were Victor Frankenstein. There was a tall dude with electricity coming out of his head, but there was nothing to draw attention to who this person was. What is supremely frustrating is the feeling of wasted potential with the ideas at play here. Hans had the seeds in his head of something good, but in the end it appears that it all went to a proverbial hell.
Werewolves, vampires, and Frankenstein himself are just not meant to be combined in any fully functional fashion. The pain of Van Helsing still smarts in my head, and that experience was the ultimate in let downs. I had no preconceived notions going into A Midnight Opera. With the strength of the recent TokyoPop titles I had the pleasure of reading, all I was looking forward to was a coherent story with competent artwork. What I got could not have been further from.
I guess there is an audience for A Midnight Opera. There has to be with the popularity of the vampire and werewolf works. Rice’s work itself has a huge following, so maybe some of those readers will appreciate what is going on. Me, on the other hand, I just do not get it. And I don’t want to. I like me critters with teeth, not guilt.
It is my turn to sulk now.
1 out of 5 Mugs O’ Blood
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