User a Malaysian Graphic Novel
By Hervé St-Louis
May 11, 2012 - 11:00

Gempak Starz
Writer(s): Zint
Penciller(s): Zint
Inker(s): Zint
Cover Artist(s): Zint
ISBN: 9789673850570
RM6.50 (approximately $2.12 US), 136 pages, b

I apologize for the delay in the continuing series on Malaysian comic books. I meant to review this book a while ago, but lost the original draft for this review and have to start everything from scratch. Bummer. In User, players log in with goggles in a virtual reality world where they compete against one another in games using handheld tablets to score against opponents. Only in the User world, people can die. User is a Malaysian graphic novel by popular Malay creator Zint which combines the dynamism of manga with a definitely Malaysian background.

As usual, I have to warn people reading this article that I cannot read Malay so therefore, half of the story is lost to me. I rely mostly on the visuals and the use try to figure out what the captions means based on the context. It’s easy to tell when two characters are having a casual discussion or are screaming at each other.

What I like about User, and I commented on that in past ComicBookBin podcast, is that the characters are involved in a sci-fi epic that’s coloured for Malaysian readers. Sure the characters look Caucasian, like manga characters often do. Some have blond hair and facial features we that would be rare in Asians. However, what makes this comic book purely Malaysian are the touches that colour the setting for local readers. You’ll see background female characters wearing the traditional head coverings many Malaysian Muslim women wear. There are palm trees in the backgrounds which are a dead giveaway for the tropical weather of Malaysia.

I’m not going to dwell too much on the story except to say that it seems decent and if it were translated into English, would find a willing audience. Visually, however, the story doesn’t lie about its quality and why Zint is considered one of the top Malaysian cartoonist. It’s dynamic with a healthy dose of duotones. Although many panels are devoid of backgrounds, it’s not because the artist can’t draw them. Instead, he concentrate the story on important elements and only add full backgrounds in important establishing shots. Close ups rarely need to establish the set. Zint likes to draw slim and lanky characters. He also likes to draw caricatures for lunatic and evil characters. That’s a traditional Malaysian technique. Again , the world of comic books would gain if graphic novels like User were translated into English so readers would get the whole scope of what the story is about. One can only wish.

Also, for the price, this comic book is a steal and much better value than most books coming out these days. Malaysian comics are really cheap. To get this comic, you may have to order it using the ISBN number and hope that your local bookstore can get it. Otherwise, your best bet is to order it from the publisher in Malaysia or a local store there. Of course, if you visit Malaysia in person, you’ll find this book in many bookstores.

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User a Malaysian Graphic Novel
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