An amateur cosplayer draws a manga
“Bizenghast” is the type of comic that I am amazed got published in the first place, and even more amazed that it is up to volume seven. This is pure fan-zine stuff, and not at all up to the professional level.
I have not read the beginning of the series, but I was intrigued by the cover which led me to pick up volume seven. I do this quite often, and a good series should be able to pick up new readers mid-stream and encourage them to go back and pick up the beginning of the series. I will definitely not be doing that here.
“Bizenghast” is one of the series that came out of Tokyo Pop’s “Rising Stars of Manga” contest. The winner was allowed to propose an ongoing series to Tokyo Pop, which is exactly that author M. Alice LeGrow did. The series “Bizenghast” came out of an art class assignment, which LeGrow submitted to Tokyo Pop. I have read another series that came out of this contest, Re: Play, and I was equally disappointed.
The problem begins with LeGrow’s art. It just isn’t up to a professional level. She does good pin-ups, like the cover which reeled me in, but the interior art is definitely lacking. Her characters are stiff and lifeless, and this looks like a comic of mannequins and action figures rather than living beings. She seems to have a particular problem with heads and necks, which appear unconnected to often, and she uses several tricks of hair and armor to cover up weaknesses which only makes things worse. Her character’s eyes are also too flat and look like pasted on stickers rather ungenerously stuck on someone’s face.
For good points, she does detail rather well, and her costumes look great. From what I gather, LeGrow is a cosplay fan and it shows. Rather than actually telling a story she seems to be doing costume design, and the detail on the costumes and backgrounds is in stark contrast to the clumsiness of the figures. As a comic artist LeGrow has potential, but she would seriously benefit from a few hundred hours of life-drawing classes as well as Byrne Hogarth’s Dynamic Figure Drawing, Dynamic Anatomy and Drawing the Human Head series of books.
There are lots of other issues here. Dialog is stiff and unnatural. The story is difficult to follow. Too much of the book is taken up by fan art submissions, poetry and a preview for another comic. The fan art all comes from the Deviant Art website, which is exactly “Bizenghast’s” level. M. Alice LeGrow does fan art. It is pretty good fan art, but fan art nonetheless.