Sunday, February 9, 2014

Presented in Mangascope

DigiKerot's review of Hells during my hiatus reminded me that I'd been meaning to post about Shinichi Hiromoto's Stone since forever, but now that I reread it, I'm finding myself short on things to say.  There's something here, in these two volumes, let's see if I can put my finger on what.

First off,  that's a hell of a thing to put in the front of a book.  Stone is certainly a fairly low-calorie piece of pop genre trash (and I mean that fairly lovingly), but having your own publisher flat-out call it derivative is just too harsh.  That's what reviewers are for!  To be honest, I feel kind of bad even grading Stone on its story because I get the feeling everything about it came about because it would be cool to draw.  If I can accept the weirdness of Jodorowsky and Brandon Graham comics as part of the spectacle, I feel like Hiromoto deserves the same courtesy.  There's definitely some work and love put into this book, but it's fair to say that most of of it went into the visuals.

Hiromoto doesn't have much work in English (just the two volumes of this, and an adaptation of Return of the Jedi), and I actually don't know much about him, but he's got an interestingly sketchy, expressionistic art style.  For some reason it makes me keep thinking of Tsutomu Nihei, but maybe that's just because this book is full of industrial ruins, cross-hatched monsters, and people in leather jumpsuits fighting them.  I also feel like you can visibly see him improve as an artist; he has a consistently interesting eye for composition, but his storytelling starts out a lot shakier, he straight up just does not know how to do panel transitions or show motion until about three quarters through the first book.

The parts where Stone leans into its post-apocalyptic setup are the most fun, I dig the scenes with pockets of humanity living on the top floors of skyscrapers and beached aircraft carriers jutting out of the sandsea.  It kind of peaks early though, Volume 2 is mostly funky-looking pirate ships shooting at each other across seas of nothingness. The occasional boring background aside, Hiromoto usually doesn't skimp on the detail, and while perky young tomboy Zizi is front and center, he can draw a pretty good craggy old bastard too.

As far as the actual story...  There's a lot of attempted profundity kind of groping along under the surface that never quite comes together, most notably a fertility/fecundity motif-- we have the world covered in sterile white sand and a skull-face on the moon, contrasted with super blatant phallic and yonic symbolism, psychic bat mitzvahs, taboos about killing pregnant monsters, weird womb communion, and the whole thing ends with the birth of a child ending a gory war. Frankly it feels like this got cancelled, it ends pretty abruptly without really concluding anything.

Considered as a kind of crazy daydream, Stone is fun.  It's not great fiction, but I enjoy it as the trifle it is, and I'm interested in checking out Hiromoto's other work-- I actually picked up those Star Wars books of his, and I'm looking forward to seeing that movie refracted through his prism.  Speaking of which, I'd really like to know just how accurate this line is...


  1. Yeah, I don't recall Stone being particularly weighty, but I really enjoyed it, mainly because of the art and my soft-spot for post-apocalypse. Definitely something I would have liked to see more of.

  2. This book is definitely you all over, yeah.