BATMAN: DEATH MASK • Yoshinori Natsume • CMX • 13+
Like Kia Asamiya’s Batman: Child of Dreams, Death Mask is an example of a manga artist playing in DC’s sandbox (although, since these adaptations never become part of Batman canon, it’s more like playing with DC’s Etch-a-Sketch). A rash of serial killings, in which the victims’ faces are torn off, plagues Gotham City. Meanwhile, a mysterious Japanese corporation has come to town, bearing a collection of ancient oni masks, one of which bears a suspicious resemblance to Batman’s bat-eared silhouette. With the help of a young Japanese woman, Batman must solve the mystery while dealing with strange nightmares and memories of his youth when he studied at a dojo in Japan. Natsume is a good pick for the material, since his manga Togari also had a vigilante premise and shonen-manga-level debates on morality. But the resulting story is forgettable; the Japanese element, and the idea of Batman’s “dark side” taking a separate form, have both been done before and better by other creators. Drawn in a more realistic style than Togari or Kurozakuro, Natsume’s art is detailed but stiff; the action scenes look okay, but the faces are awkward and inexpressive. (Natsume chooses to draw Batman as a fortysomething man with visible facial lines, but like many manga artists, he can’t draw good-looking older people.) In the end, though, it’s the tired story that does it in. (Review by Jason Thompson – originally printed in Otaku USA magazine.)
* 1/2 (one and a half stars)
Another Batman manga review! Actually, in terms of overall competence of art and storytelling, “Death Mask” is probably a two-star manga, but the derivative nature of the plot drops it half a star. On a brighter note, today’s manga winner is Lily T. of Illinois!
This photo was sent by Jasmine, one of the latest winners of 365 Days of Manga. Thanks for sending us your picture, Jasmine! I’ll send you more manga next week!