By | Friday, April 06, 2007 Leave a Comment
I just stumbled across Pop Mhan's Blank the other day. I'd heard about it a couple of times, but hadn't actually seen it anywhere. I enjoyed his work on SpyBoy, so I figured I'd give this a shot.

I read it last night and the strangest thing occurred to me about two-thirds of the way through. What I liked best about the book was -- are you ready for this? -- how Mhan draws hair. Not the story, not the fairly gratuitous T-and-A, not the humor, not the concept... the hair. Mhan did a really excellent job drawing hair on this book. In just a few lines, he was able to convey exceptionally well what each person hair was actually doing. When one character commented on another's appearance, it made totally sense but she had clearly NOT done much with her hair. And yes, I realize that is one of the most trivial and obscure things about the book to lead off a review, but I did say it was "the strangest thing."

Anyway, the basic plot is that Aki Clark is a 17 year old in a normal school. Her dad is raising her by himself, but his work demands him to be away from home most of the time. So Aki busies herself with school and friends. She then discovers that she's being stalked by another teenager claiming to be a secret agent... except that he can't remember who he is. Things start getting hairy when somebody DOES try to kidnap Aki, and we start learning just who really is looking out for her!

The story is pretty solid, which was pleasantly surprising -- I'm usually skeptical about artists trying to write their own stories. It's also freshingly different than SpyBoy which, since Mhan worked on that as well, is going to invite some obvious and immediate comparisons. It certainly has some of the same elements as that series, but they're mixed together in a wholly different manner and it did not at all feel like I was reading a re-hash of that.

But one of the things that really attracted me to SpyBoy was Peter David's writing. Now, as I said, Mhan turns in a solid story here, but it wasn't quite as nuanced or polished as what David typically turns in. David, I think, does a better job blending action and humor, and all of the characters have a clearly defined purpose for being in the story. Mhan's humor is a bit more abrupt -- not wholly out of place, mind you, just not as woven into the story and characters as with SpyBoy -- and some of his characters are less defined from a storytelling standpoint. Now that may be because I'm only looking at one volume of Blank (192 pages) as opposed to multiple series of SpyBoy (floating somewhere around 600 pages), but I don't think that's the case here; I seem to recall being more aware of the SpyBoy's characters' raison d'etre early in the series.

All in all, it was a worthy read. I think fans of Mhan won't be disappointed, and I think people who haven't read SpyBoy (and, therefore, won't have something to directly contrast to it) will be pleased. I suspect the people who will appreciate this the least will be those who already read SpyBoy on the strength of David's writing. But I figure, if that's the bar you're going to set for yourself -- as Mhan obviously did -- it's not a bad foray.
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