Sunday, November 14, 2004

Review: Dark Edge Vol. 1

Dark Edge Vol. 1
Story and art: Yu Aikawa

There's a teen horror-movie logic at play in Dark Edge Vol. 1 that's alternately charming and frustrating.

It's the kind that allows students at Yotsuji Private High School to be warned repeatedly against remaining on campus after sunset without ever asking why -- until it's too late, of course. That same thinking permits them to barely escape from school grounds with their lives, yet return to class the next day.

After the death of his mother, Kurou Takagi transfers to the mysterious school owned by the father he never knew. There, he and his classmates promptly violate the sunset taboo, and find themselves locked within the campus' massive walls and facing a small zombie army of teachers and fellow students.

The school administration, for the most part, watches impassively as the students become prey of the undead: "A school rule is somewhat like a contract that helps the students and administration co-exist," the sinister principal observes. "For those who do not uphold this contract, there is only death. That is our school's rule."

Whatever happened to detention?

Yu Aikawa tries to infuse the fast-paced story with bits of humor, often with mixed results. Although Dark Edge is advertised as an "action-comedy," much of the campiness seems misplaced, diffusing tense moments that might be better served by escalation. Luckily, there are a few truly creepy moments that make these misfires easier to overlook.

Aikawa's art is rich and detailed, if a little inconsistent. A character can be gangly in one panel, then stocky (or even barrel-chested) in the next. Arms, and even breasts, have a tendency to grow, too. It's not fatal to the story, but merely distracting.