Blackguard Vol. 1 – April Graphic Novel of The Month

Devils’ Line Creator Ryo Hanada returns with a new sci-fi/survival horror series – Blackguard. The world is suddenly overrun by monsters called “shojo,” and anyone who is bit by one is infected with a mysterious virus that turns them into the same being. To defeat the shojo, humans live in “aerial cities” and formed units called “guards.” Nanao Minami, also known as the Blackguard, fights but without regard for his own life. What is his motivation and why does he want to die so readily?

Hanada has already proven herself as a deft hand when it comes to horror in his previous series Devils’ Line. She continues to bring his A-game in this series with some top-notch zombie-style action whilst also going in a different direction from what you’d normally expect from the genre. The protagonists you expect from survival horror are usually the steely types with a strong will to survive. We get a very different type of lead in Minami who has such little regard for his life that he appears to be on autopilot. In the opening chapter, he certainly seems to be putting up a strong fight against the shojo but he also seems to be determined to die in the process.

An interesting dynamic is created when Minami is assigned a partner in the form of Chris Miyagi, an elite guard with a bit of an attitude problem. Given Minami’s unenthusiastic state, Miyagi ends up becoming somewhat of a caretaker towards him as he tries to readjust him to everyday life whilst making sure he doesn’t deliberately get himself killed. It’s a classic personality clash, but it is given something fresh in thus post-apocalyptic setting.

Hanada’s art also gives the series a big boost. Her style has elements that are reminiscent of Tsutomu Nihei’s work on BLAME! and Knights of Sidonia which is a perfect fit for this style of story. Her characters are more reserved and subtle than your typical manga characters, though she does go the extra mile to make the deceptively named shojo monsters absolutely terrifying. Her background work is also on point with a great balance of futuristic cityscapes and ruined architecture whilst also showing she knows when to take a reserved approach to draw attention to the action.

This is a strong opening volume and an intriguing take on the survival horror genre. Fans of Hanada’s work will definitely enjoy this and anyone looking for a great sci-fi or horror manga won’t be disappointed.

Blackguard Vol. 1 is out 28 April from Vertical (9781647291150, p/b, £10.99)

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