Hellgate London (vol 1)
hellgatelondon.jpg

Arvid Nelson & Jeong Mo Hang
TokyoPop

Review by Shehzaan Abdulla
26 May 2008

I have to confess something before I launch into reviewing this. Hellgate London is a manga prequel (or perhaps an origin story?) to the game Hellgate: London. Having not played the aforementioned it may well be the case that some of the fan-service that would be offered to fans of the game is totally lost on me. On the other hand if you want the opinion of someone who isn't going to tackle the manga as a piece of fan-service then you've come to the right place.

The story is notable firstly for it's setting in London which comes complete with British-ism spouting characters who like to say 'arse' and things like that. The attempt to localise the story within London is somewhat lost because the result is a weird mish-mash of American and British culture. The main character for instance goes to a University and plays for the Rugby team…yet he gets by on 'sport scholarship'…yes, because those are totally common place the UK. Meanwhile I'm paying £3,000 a year in tuition fees…but that is a rant for another time. It takes some time to get the characters to speak in British accents in your head due to all the conditioning we've received that characters in any fictional universe must be American. Anyway, with that said it grows on you. Actually one other interesting thing about the setting is the gothic-esque almost pseudo-religious leanings the story has that give it a 'The Da Vinci Code' feel.

Anyway, to summarise what this thing is actually about; John Fowler is an annoying Rugby playing University jock, one day during archaeology class he stumbles upon a skeleton that is holding a mysterious medallion. The long and short of it is that taking the medallion ends up plunging John into a situation that reveals his whole heritage line to be part of the demon fighting Knights of the Templar organisation who operate from the shadows and protect society. I can't really say much more without ruining it and ending up giving a blow by blow analysis of what happens. What I will say is that the story and characterisation themselves are weak. It's interesting for sure, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily good. What makes it ultimately an interesting read (especially the last fifth) is that it sets up the potential for a very interesting story; John and his sister could end up becoming bitter enemies as the two organisations that fight hell (one with white magic and one with black) take each of them on as apprentices. John has a brooding dark element inside him that threatens to explode and turn him evil and his ancestry is intricately tied to the demonic powers that be which lends his tale Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker conflict potential. Having more meat on the characters would be much appreciated and is definitely an area that the writers could work on in the future.

The art is also a bit of a mixed bunch; the way panels are cut together for instance seems abrupt and amateurish. As a result it feels like the story as a result is moving at a breakneck pace though and I suppose that really is the point of the 1st in a series. The character art design on the other hand is consistently good, from John's little brother who clearly has too much fizzy Coke in him to his easy on the eyes sister and her character defining haircut (one look says it all; 'rebel case'). There are big swords with nice engravings that would seem perfectly in place in the hands of a 'Guilty Gear' character.

The whole thing is light on story, characterisation and such and even on giving us much of flavour of the world the story inhabits. However I assume the whole point of laying down a prequel is to get the foundations down for an interesting long-term. And on that note Hellgate London is a resounding success. Would I buy this? Probably not. Would I buy the next one? Probably.

Story: 3/5
It's an interesting set-up. I want to know where this goes.

Artwork: 3.5/5
Good designs but strange progression techniques and some cliché in design are noticeable, though not necessarily a major detracting factor.

Overall: 3/5
I'll be honest. I want to know where this is going because I sense it is going in the right direction. Hopefully it won't just lead into the dead-end of getting people to buy the game.

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