By Leroy Douresseaux
December 10, 2006 - 15:23
The series heroine is Aki Clark, a 17-year old high school student who lives alone because her scientist father is away working on some big project. Athletic and independent, Aki doesn't necessarily stand out at the private St. Augustus High School, but she is the object of many others' attentions - in particularly an escapee from the Marduke Psychiatric Institute. His name is Blank, and though he has no memories of his life, he does remember that he is a secret agent. Blank pledges to protect Aki - from whom or what, he's not sure, but he knows he must protect Aki.
Blank is, however, something of a pervert and a horndog - always trying to cop a feel of Aki's ample chest. Aki is initially repulsed by Blank's behavior, but something about him endears the crazy teen to her. As their friendship grows (in fits and starts), so does the peril Aki faces. A mysterious anti-terrorist, terrorist group, Raizen, wants information Aki's father, Dr. Gibson Clark, has, and they're willing to hold her hostage in order to force the info from Dr. Clark. Blank is ready to come to the rescue, but both he and Aki will have their hands full because high school drama and various international intrigues all have Aki in their crosshairs.
That Pop Mhan wants Blank to be an action comedy is obvious. That it isn't funny, comedic, and even vaguely humorous is also obvious. Blank isn't bad, just raw and unrefined, and the comedy is forced - more worthy of eye rolling than even chuckles. Still, Mhan has created a cast that includes tome engaging and interesting characters, especially Aki and Blank. Aki isn't a damsel in distress, and she can beat the crap out of Blank (and does) even when he's trying to save her. She isn't some white chick waiting for Brad Pitt to save her. Aki is a strong, young woman - emphasis on "woman."
Blank is ostensibly a hero, but Mhan doesn't try to downplay his lecherous ways. In fact, Mhan doesn't pretty up any of his characters. Blank isn't the best at what he does. Aki isn't the most popular or hated girl in school. Actually, for a heroine, she's isn't too far from being a nobody. One villain (whom I won't name) turns out to be nothing more than jealous, although at one point that character seems fairly evil. Mhan has an interesting way of keeping the reader on his toes about the players in Blank.
Where Blank stumbles is in the narrative structure and with the art. A lot of Blank is extraneous and overdressed. A few of the characters are just stock villains from spy thrillers. It's not a lot of them, but just enough to hamper the narrative. In order to create a huge web of intrigue, Mhan has a large cast, but the weight of too many extras may actually make Blank collapse upon itself.
The art is a mixed bag. Some of it seems like sketchbook material, and some of it looks like hurriedly produced storyboards. Some of this even looks like a newcomer drew it. Perhaps, this book's misfires are the result of someone tackling what basically amounts to writing and drawing a series of graphic novels for the first time when he's spent his career as an artist drawing from others' scripts.
Blank isn't bad. It's someone learning on the fly, and with a cast that does include two intriguing leads, Blank should blossom. Readers may well realize that in buying this, they're putting a down payment on what could be some very good Manga. I'll be back.
Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the images.