Hellgate London Manga Review

This is Tokyopop’s prequel to the game of the same name covering the experiences of John and Lindsey Fowler. Unfortunately, the majority of fans, apart from the uber hardcore obsessive ones, will be disappointed by this weak horror which seems confused about its target audience.

That said, there are some things I love about this manga. Lindsey Fowler has a memorable attractive character design. I was delighted to see a girl whacking a demon to death with a cricket bat, especially when it meant her role in the violence matched that of the generic male lead. I particularly liked the image of her face as she first saw London destroyed by demons. The moment when the demon arm sticks a finger up at John’s ancestor and chooses to bind with John instead was a pleasant surprise that brought some much needed humour (I doubt anyone would find the lame Eastenders joke funny). The plague doctor character was novel, although it’s difficult to find a guy wearing a giant beak very scary! The crazy sandwiches made the brother likeable, so it hurt more to see his decapitated body at the end of the volume.

The character art was good, it just felt more like a western comic than a manga, which jars with me because the main reason I transferred to reading manga was for the different art style. While the clash between the Knights Templar and the Cabalists gave it more depth, it could have been used better to give the story a more foreboding atmosphere, rather than simply forcing the siblings to take different sides. The novel preview at the end was more enjoyable, I liked the description of Warren’s inner torment as a demon controlled his body, forcing him to kill his fellow human beings on pain of death if he chose to disobey. It made me wonder if John will lose control and end up being taken over by the demon arm, which would make the story more gory and interesting, or whether the generic male lead triumphs and turns out to be the one cabalist who is stronger than a demon *yawn*.

My major problem is that this is advertised on the back as a horror, but for the most part feels like a fantasy, with a magic sword, magic pendant and mysterious ancestry. The background art is poor, something that needs to be well done to give a horror that creepy feeling. The dialogue is disjointed, attempting to throw in a random accent from time to time, and the comments made by grown-ups to the kids: “I know you’re a good boy Johnathon” “Ah, Love everything’s worked out delightfully“, isn’t a believeable response to a teenager who’s just been caught digging up a skeleton!!

I’d like to read the next volume if they increase the violence and the horrifying images, here’s hoping to see all the rugby loving chums ripped apart by demons! This manga ultimately falls down because it feels like it’s aimed at younger teens but it’s given a 16+ rating. I had a quick flick through the Dark Horse Hellgate Comics and what stood out to me was that the female character art was hotter, and there was much more gory violence, more likely to encourage someone 16+ to pick this up as a horror title. You can preview the first four pages of the Dark Horse Hellgate Comics here.

If you’re looking for more Tokyopop 16+ horror I highly recommend Dragon Head and Priest.

Many thanks to Tokyopop for providing the review copy.