Sky Blade vol. 1

Sky Blade vol. 1
 Chad Clayton  rates it:    

Author/Artist: Hyung Kang-Suk/Ah Shin
Format: Paperback
Price: $9.99

Jih-Ro is destined to become the ruler of the land. He’s an incredibly powerful warrior, a very handsome man. But he has a dire secret: somewhere, there lives a person born on the exact year, day, and time as he was. This person is destined to eventually meet Jih-Ro and do battle with him. The winner shall rule the land, and the loser shall… well, fertilize the land, I guess. So Jih-Ro is off to find this person and ensure that he shall be the one to rule…

But this manhwa isn’t about him.

Sure, Jih-Ro and his backstory are in this manhwa, but unlike ADV Manga’s back-cover blurb would have you believe, he’s not the main character, nor has his presence thus far been terribly significant. The character we actually end up following around is Il-Geum, a person born on the exact same year, date, and time as Jih-Ro. But unlike the powerful and stately warrior, Il-Geum is a hapless and clumsy drifter who’s a bit more clever (or lucky) than people give him credit for. The story begins when Il-Geum finds an extremely striking sword on a dead bandit, and from there he has a meeting with Jih-Ro, nearly gets killed by a group of bandits who are conveniently disposed of by Jih-Ro, almost gets killed after accidentally kissing/disrobing two female warriors, escapes while they’re battling each other, almost gets killed by a third female warrior, and… and…

You see where I’m going with this? Sky Blade is just one thing after another. Characters keep popping up out of nowhere, and making bizarre assumptions just because they’re required to. It’s less of a story than a long chain of improbable events that doesn’t really lead anywhere or build up to anything. This entire volume is devoted to watching Il-Geum narrowly escape danger (that he mostly brings upon himself) and generally be a buffoon, which could have made for interesting reading had they given him something more interesting to do than bumble through chapter after chapter of accidents and coincidences.

Sky Blade is, thus far, more a screwball martial-arts comedy than a serious actioner, but it’s seldom a funny one. In fact, I think it delivers a return of approximately one chuckle every 75 pages or so, with most of the rest of the gags being ineffectual or mildly annoying. Most of the jokes are cliches we’ve seen a million times over, such as everyone being able to see a character’s panties when she jumps, or ladies becoming murderous after having their thighs accidentally exposed. That’s not to say there aren’t a few clever moments, but these moments are often grossly telegraphed or otherwise mishandled. There’s one potentially clever scene where Il-Geum turns the “lost innocence” tables on a lady who accidentally kissed him, but its execution is too awkward to really be funny.

Also requisite to martial-arts comics are, of course, fight scenes. Sadly, most of the “fight” scenes in Sky Blade are exceptionally poor, primarily because out of three fight scenes, only one involves actual fighting. Jih-Ro’s battle with the bandits in a restaurant consists of one panel showing Jih-Ro waving his fan, and a whopping six pages devoted to nothing but watching the barbarians being blown away by the resulting gale. Whenever the two women fight over who gets to kill Il-Geum, the battle consists primarily of spouting overlong attack names and wretched dialogue, and watching panels full of flowers and wavy, squiggly arrow-like lines, in lieu of ever seeing the characters actually engage each other. Even the one fight that actually involves fighting is curiously lacking a sense of movement; it’s notable mainly for the atrociously cheesy dialogue lifted from any number of seventh-rate manga villains.

I can’t recommend Sky Blade, simply because it has little to nothing to offer that any number of other, usually better titles don’t already have. There’s scarcely a single original idea in this entire volume, and nothing is handled so well that it would merit a look despite that. It’s not painful to read, but given that there are plenty of manga and manhwa that are better written, funnier, and deliver far better martial-arts action than this, what’s the point in reading this?

Added:  Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Related Link:  ADV Manga
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