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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bizenghast: A Review

Bizenghast is a tale set in the fictional New England town with the same name. That tale focuses on the a mentally ill fifteen-year-old name Dinah. Her past is a tragic one due to the car crash that left her orphaned at a very young age. The girl is sent to live with her aunt who resides in a haunted house. The house was originally a hospital and then boarding school and a satanic coven. (Okay, I made the last part up, but what are the chances of a house once being two of the things that almost guarantee a haunted house.) It turns out that are protagonist Dinah can see ghosts, which causes her aunt to believe that her darling little niece suffers from schizophrenia.

One, bright and shinning day, Dinah and her extremely loyal friend Vincent decide to take a walk to search for trinkets of his hodge podge of a garden. They come across a mysterious mausoleum in the middle of the woods. Being teenagers in a horror comic, they decide to investigate the sketchy mausoleum. Dinah comes across plaque with Dinah's name on it that turns out to be some contract. For some odd reason Dinah signs it and binds herself to the contract that requires her to come to the mausoleum every night and free the ghosts. If she succeeds she will win her freedom and some unknown reward. If she fails she will die and linger inside the cursed mausoleum as a corpse.

For the longest time I've heard all kinds of things about the comic series Bizenghast and being a fan of its creator M. Alice Legrow, I found it was time to check the series out. The first volume pretty much follows the plot listed above and a few ghost encounters. Every night when Dinah and Vincent enter the mausoleum they much enter a special world that the ghost resides in and free them from that world and get them to enter the fate that waits for them in the afterlife. The strange ghostly worlds is where a great deal of the horror in the comic comes from. The horror in the comic is more psychological or eerie, instead of grotesque, but there is enough horrorific elements present in the comic to keep many horror fans content.

The art in the comic is well done for the most part and can even be quite stunning from time to time, but there does seem to be a few rushed and sloppy panels seen from time to time. Each chapter has a beautifully done tarot inspired chapter card, which almost makes the comic worth-a-look to just see each chapter card, alone. Each ghost world was captivating in its own right and was rich with detail. There is a wonderful range of detailed backgrounds and costumes.  The artist seemed to take quite a bit of time to make sure tha the comic had its own unique look and feel.

Now, after all that praise I feel that it is time to talk about the comics cons. The comics characters are one note and dull. The antagonist, Dinah seems to do nothing, but whine, which is fine with me in small amounts, but the amount of whinnying that the main character does is ridiculous. Vincent hardly exhibits any sort of personality and seems to only follow Dinah and get her to stop whinnying. The comic relief character introduced at the end of vol. 1 is neither funny or witty. The characters seem to be lifeless in the story that they're in, which makes it terribly hard for the reader to make any true connections with the characters themselves.

The plot in Bizenghast is interesting, but badly executed.  The creator seemed to take more time crafting and creating details for the story of Bizenghast rather then creating a solid narrative. The plot seems rushed during the first half of the tale and seems to slow to a crawl during the second half. This made it terribly hard for me to get through and spent time wishing that the creator had took the time to focus on the plot rather then all the pointless costume changes that was given to Dinnah.

By Vol. 2 I had almost decided to give up on Bizenghast and consider it poorly done comic, with pretty artwork. For some reason or another I decided to check out the third volume at my library and give the series one more chance. To my surprise there was a complete turn around in the quality of the comic. The artwork all though well done from the start, was now exquisitely done in every panel instead of the occasional sloppy panel seen in the last two volumes. The main character was now competent and three-dimensional. In fact all the characters in Bizenghast seemed to have zest and personality. Characters now had their own objectives, and were now able to tell a compelling story. As a reader I now cared about the fate of each character and now felt a bit tense when characters were put into dangerous situations. The comic relief character in Bizenghast was no longer needlessly random and was actually humorus. There were actually a few times that I found my self laughing out loud, while I was reading.  There seemed to be a complete turn around in the comics quality and all of a sudden I wanted to read on and find out what fate holds for the the characters of Bizenghast.

Even though I found the first two volumes of Bizenghast to be terribly boring and tedious, I was completely won over by the third volume. I can only hope that the quality of Bizenghast will continue to improve and not revert back to the quality seen in the first two volumes. Now, the comic is by no means a masterpiece by any means, but it's certainly worth a look and can most likely be found at your local library. There are eight volumes of Bizenghast in total, with the eighth due to be released this year.

-Horrorwood Doll

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