Review: Fist Fight Manifesto: the Midknighters #1-7 (Mangaholix)

For reference: the Official Mangaholix Midknighters page.
(Better change the Episode 1 synopsis though – unless there was an Aporia cross over and I missed it @_@)

Created by: Emmanuel Javier
Writer: Emmanuel Javier
Artist, Inker and Colorist: Dennis Menese
Letterer: Jon Zamar

I’m a fan of fighting/martial arts manga (HSD Kenichi, Change Guy, Hajime no Ippo) almost despite myself. The genre has a certain rhythm to it that makes it predictable to a certain extent (Dragonball Z – a series I’m not a fan of – being the most notable example) but even then, when done right, there’s nothing like the payoff I get when I see a the hero (either the former weakling or jaded loner) I care about finally show the fruits of his 25 chapter (8 months in real time, 1 week in Manga time) training in order to beat down a particularly arrogant bad guy.

While FFM hasn’t been around long enough for that loss-train-win scenario to come to fruition (Cisco didn’t seem all that formidable), what set the story apart for me (and one of its strong points) from the get go was it doesn’t start with the traditional weakling/bad-ass lone hero, but instead with a team. It started out with a plan, more like a caper story (think Ocean’s 11/ Lies of Locke Lammora) and that’s a good thing. Team-focused stories are some of my favorite kinds because having a constant set of interacting characters makes for good, dynamic character development. It’s clear that the Midknighters have a history together, and they show good chemistry together.

What makes the story a bit problematic for me though is that the team from the get go is a team of 8. Making sure that 8 people with strong, diverse personalities can each have their time to shine and distinguish themselves over the course of, what, 12-20 pages an issue is a daunting task. What makes it more daunting is there is a large cast of characters beyond the team of 8, who themselves need to be shown. The synopsis on the website already shows 24 characters – that’s a LOT.

I think that’s what made issue #1 of the series a bit weak for me, pacing-wise – it was more a roll call than a story. (I don’t think we needed the 4 kings to be shown yet at the time for instance); however, as the series moved forward, the pacing improved – largely because while there are a lot of characters, the POV seems to stay focused on a primary one for each issue. Pacing problems aside, the plot seems to have legs and if all of the team have a history like Casey, that’s a lot of fuel for plot development.

On the art side, the comic looks really good, and while some characters can be tricky to distinguish from each other (probably because the character designs trend towards the real rather than the outlandish (i.e. Kenichi)), Mr. Menese does a good job of illustrating the action, humor and drama scenes (some artists only excel at one or the other). The coloring and lettering, again as with most of Mangaholix, is very well done from what I can see.

All in all, FFM is growing to be an enjoyable hybrid fight/team manga with good character interaction. Now that a lot of the preliminary ground work is out of the way, I’m hoping that a focused narrative can give the story the forward momentum that every good fighting manga requires.

Don’t forget guys — Komikon 2009 Summer Fiesta is TODAY:

UP Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman
May 16, 2009, 10am-8pm, Saturday
Entrance Fee: Php 50.00

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One response to “Review: Fist Fight Manifesto: the Midknighters #1-7 (Mangaholix)

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