Graphic Novel Reviews: Black Metal Volume 1

The Story

Shawn and Sam Stronghand discover that they are the Roth reborn, an ancient demon and wielder of the Sword of Atol. As demons seek their lives, for their ancient enemy Baron Von Char still remembers. Along with the Black Metal band Frost Axe, and their friends, the brothers enter hell to slay Von Char and claim their place as ruler of Hell.

The Review
Black Metal represtents a trend in Western comics I hope to see continued. While some may think that I’m just a manga fan, I’m actually a fan of all types of sequential art. But there are certain things about manga that appeal to me, things that I would love to see applied to Western comics. This doesn’t mean I want to see the art style copied, as OEL manga tends to do. Rather I want to see two specific stylistic trappings copied.

First off is the format of the book. I’m a big fan of the smaller but thicker volumes that manga come in. It makes it easier to read, and provides more story per volume. Seeing Western comics imitate this format is something I’d like to see spread because it helps make reading the volumes so much easier.

Second is the art. I like black and white art, having gotten used to it through reading manga. But most Western comic styles just don’t fit a black and white format. The more realistic the art, the worse it looks when not in full color. Black Metal takes the concept behind manga art, rather than directly copying a generic style. The art doesn’t ape any manga styles, but rather it goes for its own thing. It keeps everything simpler, and eschews the realistic style. It makes for an easily read comic, that has hints of manga influence, without being a carbon copy of manga art.

That being said, good lord this comic is goofy. And it takes itself completely serious…I think. It’s kind of hard to tell. Nothing so ridiculous could possibly be serious, and yet, they play it completely straight. From the first page I knew I was in for some grade A goofiness.

First there was blackness. Then…there was metal.

Uh…no. I’m pretty sure several other things happened between the darkness at the beginning and the time when we’d advanced enough to create the necessary instruments and social attitudes that created Black Metal, or just Heavy Metal in general.

That first page made me go into this expecting to hate every moment. And, surprisingly enough, I changed my mind within only a few pages. Don’t get me wrong, this comic is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, stupid. But it’s also incredibly funny. Sam and Shawn are so far removed from any human reality that it’s fascinating to read their adventure.

Black Metal tries very hard to be a satire, but while it’s funny I have a hard time figuring out what it’s a satire of. The problem is that it’s this satirical nature that robs Black Metal of any sense of relatability. Shawn and Sam are more vehicles of satire than actual characters, and while their teenage seriousness is somewhat charming, their behavior and dialogue is so far removed from anything remotely resembling human that it’s impossible to form a connection with them. You might enjoy yourself reading Black Metal, but you won’t find yourself engaged by the story at any point.

Do understand, I myself am a fan of metal, though I go more for Power Metal and Symphonic Metal, which are so far removed from Black Metal that I can’t quite connect. But even from a standpoint somewhere near the intended demographic I can’t fathom what Black Metal is. I know it’s meant to be funny, and it is, but it fails to create any sense of attachment with readers, and thus it fails at the basic function of narrative. It’s a fun read for anyone into demons, metal, and Norse mythology (with a sprinkling of Greek), but the story never delves deep enough to be more than a momentary diversion.

Recommended, but with a strong caveat that this definitely isn’t for everyone. Perhaps if the pacing had slowed down just a little, spread this story over more than one volume, and either tone the satire up or down, and then it would be a more engaging read. As it stands, it’s an interesting experiment, but it’s not quite my cup of tea.

Like it? Buy it! The Dark Lord Commands It!

One comment

  1. Hey, I lent you this one. 😛
    I think your problem was you weren't listening to Opeth or Slayer when you read it. I'm sure if you had you'd have given it 100000 out of 10.

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