published by Netcomics; $11.99 US
“Manhwa Novella Collection” is Netcomics’ umbrella title for a series of anthologies containing shorter works, each focused on a notable Korean comic author. Here, I’m looking at Volume Two: 9 Faces of Love by Wann (whose Can’t Lose You has also been published by Netcomics).
Personally, I’m not always fond of this technique. If I only care for certain types of works and/or particular authors, it bugs me to have (for instance) books numbered two and four on my shelf without one and three. And that kind of obsessiveness may be what the publisher is counting on to help encourage readers to more widely sample their authors. The book is slightly larger than the standard manga size, and the price is $2 higher as well.
9 Faces of Love includes nine stories created over a period of seven years. They’re short pieces about the power of love set in a variety of eras, from a medieval fantasy to the modern-day, and genres, from slice-of-life to science fiction.
One in particular has an intriguing metaphor as its core idea — a man who doesn’t care about women can no longer see them, except for his neighbor he’s falling in love with who can’t see him — but it’s almost too much for the space it has. Instead of a nuanced exploration of male/female relations, the author goes for the overly dramatic choices, disappointing after the strong character setup. The art is generic, with nothing that stands out or impresses, and not as much weight as the ideas.
That was the only story I was disappointed by, though. The others ranged widely, but they all made me think. A story about friendship among automatons reminded me of the transforming power of affection, of how being near those you love can make you a different, better person. A thought piece captured what goes through someone’s mind after a breakup.
A shonen-ai-flavored incident explored reincarnated lovers and a witch’s curse. A girl lost her best friend because his girlfriend is jealous of their relationship, and she needed a life-changing moment to move on. Two women redefined their relationship. Last, a princess raised a bird-boy she finds in the forest and has to come to terms with letting a child go. (A great choice to close the volume.)
I was particularly impressed by something that reminded me of Sliding Doors, a piece about how two people meant to be together find each other no matter what. I enjoyed the way succeeding layers were revealed to the reader, and the everyday touches in the art established a strong sense of setting.
Overall, the diverse mix was surprisingly satisfying. Every piece had something about it I found thought-provoking or memorable, a remarkable track record for a collection. The art wasn’t as sparse as some manhwa, and I grew to appreciate the figure work. The book really won me over.
If the publisher is taking suggestions, I’d appreciate it if some biographical material was added to this line of books. What else has this author done? Why were these works selected, and how do they relate to the creator’s overall career? Then it would be a truly great introduction.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)