~by Tsutomu Nihei
It was the gorgeous cover of the first volume of Biomega that caught my eye and made me pick it up for a closer look. I didn't recognize the title or the creator, Tsutomu Nihei. I ended up putting the book back on the shelf, but for the next few weeks my mind kept wandering back to it. And then I discovered that one of the plot elements was at least vaguely connected to Mars and any remaining self-restraint I had collapsed (I have a thing for Mars). I soon found a copy of Biomega, Volume 1 in my possession. I was very pleased with my decision when one of the guys at my favorite comic store was elated by my choice. Biomega was actually one of the store's featured selections at the time, he liked it so much. So, satisfied with my purchase, I happily took it home. And then promptly finished reading it that night.
In the year 3005, the N5S virus was introduced into the Earth's atmosphere, the disease quickly spreading throughout the population. Most of the infected transform into grotesque, inhuman "drones" while a very select few, known as accommodators, are able to adapt to the virus, making them a valuable commodity. Zoichi Kanoe is a synthetic human, designed to be stronger, faster, and more resistant to the virus than his counterparts. Along with Fuyu, a highly sophisticated artificial intelligence, he has been sent by Toa Heavy Industry to the city of 9JO to locate and retrieve any surviving accommodators. But Toa isn't the only group searching for accommodators, and while Zoichi has some significant advantages, he most definitely isn't invincible.
It's not something that I always mention, but Viz Media' production values for Biomega are great. Plenty of gutter space is given so none of the art or text ends up lost in the binding. The quality of the printing is consistent and excellent throughout, particularly important for Biomega because there is a lot of ink on these pages. The artwork is dark, both literally and figuratively, the white space being overwhelmed by shading, helping to create a fairly ominous atmosphere that is highly appropriate for the story. The immense, sweeping architecture and city landscapes manage to convey a sense of claustrophobia despite their size, their obvious decay only adding to the environment's grimness. Nihei's character designs are also marvelous and fit his setting nicely. Eyes tend to be set widely apart which I found disconcerting at first, but the style eventually grew on me. The once human creatures are twisted and creepy but are occasionally beautiful in their nightmarishness. One of the things that really impressed me about the artwork was Nihei's ability to not only convey action, but also the tremendous speed at which things were happening.
It is the artwork that really carries the first volume of Biomega; there is very little dialogue and while the basic premise and characters have been introduced, not much development has had a chance to occur yet. For the most part, the art handles this task admirably, though there were occasions that I was slightly confused by who was supposed to be who (story-wise, visually everyone is quite distinctive) and what exactly their purpose in the Biomega world was. However, I do think that this will be revealed and further explored in subsequent volumes. The plot is vaguely repetitive so far, mostly consisting of Zoichi riding around and shooting things, but he's pretty badass while doing it, so I'm all right with it. Some of the weaponry seems a little over the top but that does mean there are some massive explosions and phenomenal scenes of destruction, which is always fun. I know that I'm certainly looking forward to reading the second volume, anyway.