â€œTaste blood till you canâ€™t take it anymore.â€
If you thought the western sci-fi combo in Firefly was cool, why not try a western mixed with zombies and lots, and lots of bloody evil havoc. Just donâ€™t expect the same depth from the characters just yetâ€¦or sense of humourâ€¦but hey, exploding zombie undead = cool!
Ivan Isaacs is a half human, half devil, fallen priest. Heâ€™s got quite a presence with his wide-rimmed hat, black gloves and belts of hidden weapons beneath his long jacket. We see him super calm and collected waiting for a passenger steam train. Itâ€™s clear that whatever is chained up in the eighth carriage would be better off staying in there. Also boarding the train under federal guard, face hidden beneath an old sack, is the captured leader of the Rebel Angels. The Rebel Angel gang catches up with the train on horseback to try and rescue their leader and the ensuing bloodbath attracts unwanted attention from the locked carriageâ€¦
Ivan grits his teeth as he slaughters the undead, stylized clouds of gun smoke surround him and background lines emphasize his coat swirling and blood flying through the air. This manga certainly doesnâ€™t stint on the violence, but youâ€™re given this visual feast at the expense of character depth, which will hopefully develop in the next few volumes. Weâ€™re introduced to the arrogant Jarbilong, one of the twelve priests trying to resurrect the fallen archangel Temozarela. He has an undead welcoming party for Ivan in the near future, hereâ€™s hoping he dies soon.
The leader of the rebel angel turns out to be *spoiler* a girl, yay, a kickass female character (Iâ€™m enjoying this more already). She witnesses Ivanâ€™s transformation as he massacres the undead on the train. Heâ€™s eyes seem to sink, heâ€™s veins bulge as the devil Belial feeds off his rage and tries to make Ivan completely his. Makes you wonder what kind of monster Ivan would turn into if he lost the other half of his humanity, something completely terrifying!
The artwork has a unique angular feel. Some of the most spectacular scenes work best through the use of contrasting backgrounds. The station scene is so clean, with the angular style on the posh clothes making them look extra crisp and clean, so itâ€™s all the more gory to see them in gun hole ridden, blood splattered carriages later on. The undead design is really neat too, replacing the nose and mouth with the grates, stitching up their limbs and the raised spines gives them an original feel over most undead clichÃ©s.
The dialogue is enjoyable from the ominous religious laden priest speak, to the irritating rebel angel Kacho who says â€˜queâ€™ all the time. However, there are times when I was wishing theyâ€™d be a little less mysterious and give more insight into the plot. Especially why everything is happening, just who is Gena, and how do they create walking undead? The focus is a little too much on the minor characters, although I like the way you get to know Jack the pickpocket, and then both his arms get ripped off! Eugh!
Priest is a great read if youâ€™re looking for plenty of violence and an anti-hero oozing with confidence and rage battling against the undead and his inner devil. A zombie manga with a western twist, just donâ€™t expect to understand why anythingâ€™s happening yet! The ending left me wanting to know more, will Lizzie have her revenge?
Iâ€™m tentatively looking forward to the film version of Priest. The press releases indicate itâ€™s going to be about Ivan teaming up with a sheriff and female priestess on the hunt for some vampires. Since when was Priest about vampires?! Gerard Butler is in negotiations for the Priest role. Is this the face of Ivan Isaacs?
He doesnâ€™t quite fit the human image in my headâ€¦Also, if you love the art in Priest, Min-Woo Hyung has an artbook also published by Tokyopop â€˜Justice N Mercyâ€™, which includes some unseen Priest artwork, as well as his other projects.
Images from Justice N Mercy:
Official Tokypop Priest website here.