Title: Psy-Comm vol 1 (Ongoing Series)
UK Distributor: Tokyopop
Author: Jason Henderson, Tony Salvaggio,
Suggested Retail Price (SRP): £6.99
Number of Pages: 192
Reviewed: 22nd May 2006
Reviewer: Rich (Webmaster)
Ah, US manga. Many hardcore fans dismiss it out of hand,
they say it’s not manga because it is not Japanese. Do they have a point?
To be honest it’s an argument that will never be resolved, but we at
Animetion believe things should be judged on their own merit – whether you
like it or not US manga is here to stay, so we’ll review it.
Psy-Comm is one of the most well known of the new generation of US manga,
mainly due to its serialisation in UK anime and manga mag Neo. The
story is set in a dystopian future where Capitalism rules – literally.
Countries no longer exist, instead the Earth is divided into territories named
after, and ruled by, massive corporations. The companies vie with each
other for power, waging profit-driven wars using their own private armies, all
televised for public entertainment. Amongst these armies elite units of
psychic commandos – the titular Psy-Comms – are the stars and build up big
followings amongst the people due to their spectacular abilities. The
story follows the Psy-Comm Mark Leit, a talented veteran soldier with the
psychic ability of precognition, who is unable to shake the guilt of not being
able to foresee and prevent the death of a friend many years before.
Despite this he has become famous for his extremely effective partnership with
David Jerold, a long-time friend with the power of telekinesis, but their latest
mission threatens to re-open old wounds and drive a wedge between the pair.
Haunted by the past and faced with an uncertain future, will his powers be
enough for him to survive?
I’ll get this out of the way first – Psy-Comm looks good. The art
is clear and well balanced in simplicity and detail, the artist appears to take
his inspiration from the work of Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, which is
obviously no bad thing. Unlike some other US manga I have seen, the
backgrounds are detailed and the setting very well realised, which gives it a
very slick and professional feel. It’s visually strong but does the
content match up? Well, mostly. Psy-Comm vol 1 is all out
action with hardly a pause for breath, even the relative calm of a victory
parade – the only time you see the characters in a non-combat situation – is
disrupted by a terrorist attack. You have to learn about the characters
through the action, and because of this there isn’t a great deal of depth to
them yet, any familiarity you feel by the end of the volume is largely down to
the fact that you have seen characters like them before.
Psy-Comm really wears its influences on its sleeve, and this is to an
extent is the root of its only real problem. As well as the stylistic nod
to Otomo, you have the televised wars and fighting-for-points system of
Starship Troopers, the capitalism-led future of a million and one sci-fi
films (Aliens and Robocop for example) and the psychic soldiers of
X-Men and Scanners. Chuck in a bit of Transmetropolitan
cynicism and a large dose of the classic sci-fi Logan’s Run and you get a
big mish-mash of ideas and styles that... works surprisingly well actually.
Although it draws on a lot of other films and series it does have its own
identity at the end of it, the only real problem all the familiar elements give
is that you are never really left guessing where it is going to go. The
surprise and tension some manga convey simply because of they are unlike
anything the West produces is absent, which could be a problem if the whole book
wasn’t so rip-roaringly entertaining.
Psy-Comm vol 1 is a real Hollywood manga. It looks great, is packed with
tonnes of slick action and big explosions, features brooding square jawed heroes
and feisty heroines, and is massively enjoyable. On the other hand, like
many Hollywood films, it does lack depth, draws heavily from other titles and
can be a little clichéd and predictable. It is great fun but hasn’t got a
lot of originality behind the flashes and bangs, however, it has created an
interesting world and will no doubt flesh out once the real plot – which kicks
off at the end of this book – gets into it’s stride. Psy-Comm vol 1
is an enjoyable and entertaining read that hints at future depth, admittedly war
stories with no let-up in the action will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you
like action based titles with a more serious edge then this is definitely worth
The usual, a brief preview of volume 2, a couple of adverts,
short biographies of the authors and a single page spotlight on the Tokyopop
title Mark of the Succubus. There are also a couple of production
sketches of the principle characters hidden between chapters too.