Mandalay is an interesting period piece with a mixture of fantasy and the supernatural. At times it reads like a historical account of events, while other times it’s just good old fashion fantasy. It’s a story that takes place in and around Burma. What’s interesting about the story is that it spans across several generations. It’s interesting in that regard because the parts it explains always play a role in the story later on. But they’re explained so completely that it feels like an anthology of stories rather than just one.
The first part takes place in the 16th century. It’s not quite an origin story, but it kind of is. I can’t explain that further without spoiling it so you’ll just have to take my word that that makes sense. We’re introduced to a Mage with incredible power. He’s summoned by the new King of the land, a power hungry man. The King is building a palace on top of an old building, but finds some strange carvings and a three sided mirror below the build site. The Mage figures out what the mirrors are, but it’s power is too great for him to reveal it to the King. He fears he’ll become power hungry and lead their nation to countless wars. The king won’t take no for an answers and takes the Mage’s grandson forcing him to perform the ceremony.
There’s more to that story, but I’m going to move on to the meat and potatoes of it all. We move forward a few more times, but ultimately the story comes together during the second World War.
We meet two twins living in Burma due to their father’s position as Governor. Burma is occupied by the British in case you were wondering. One of the twins is in love with a local woman, while his twin is also pretty much in love with the same woman. The difference being that Lance is a solider, while Alex is a student with the woman. After Alex and other students protest his father’s house he ends up going into hiding and catching Yellow Fever. His girlfriend tells his father that he can save him and the father lets her take him to the decedent of the mage we meet before. The problem is… some of his family was killed because of the protest. Now he’s faced with the choice of killing him, saving him or damning them both.
dThis is a big story. There’s a lot going on at times and we’re constantly checking in with both twins. Their lives go through a lot of changes. Too many to properly list here and I wouldn’t because then you wouldn’t read the story.
This is a reprint of sorts in that Humanoid has brought it State side and had it translated. I’m glad they did as it turned out to be an entertaining read. It has a throwback feel to it which worked for the book. I don’t always like it when a comic reads as if it were from another era, but clearly there’s nothing that can be done about that with this book since it is from another era. Still, I was impressed by how well it held up over time.
The twins are great characters. They come off as individuals and not just carbon copies. I think it helps that they’re in different places in life and doing very different things. The female characters are a bit weak. They’re not strong or even supportive, but mostly are just there to break up the story or (and I’m not joking) to give birth. That’s my one negative to the story is just an overall lack of believable female characters.
Most of the art is by Butch Guice which should be enough to convince you that the art is pretty damn great. Guice handles well over half of the comic until two other artists step in to finish it off. The thing is, the other two artists do a great job sticking close to Guice’s style. To the point that I really didn’t notice it while reading because I was so engulfed in the story. Overall the visuals are great and really help drive the story and keep it interesting.
This was one of the first Humanoids titles that I’ve read and while it’s a translated reprint, it was still a treat to find and read. I’m checking out more of their books so I’ll have more reviews from the publisher, but this was definitely a great place to start. If you like period pieces, but with a supernatural element then I would really encourage you to check out Mandalay. It’s a delightful graphic novel.
Mandalay Writer: Philippe Thirault Artists: Butch Guice, Gallur, Jose Malaga Publisher: Humanoids Price: $39.95 Release Date: 11/11/15 Format: OGN; Print