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Zombie Powder #1
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Written by maehara   
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 16:00
Zombie PowderIf the title of Zombie Powder gives you any expectation of a story that includes zombies, then forget it - no undead here. Instead, we have the search for a rare substance that can grant immortality, in a story that has a certain Trigun / Gun Sword vibe to it. Except that it isn't as good as they are...

1 - The Young Boy and the Black Right Arm
Zombie Powder: the Devil's Medicine, a powder that can raise the dead and grant eternal life. As you'd expect, there's no shortage of people on the trail of a substance like that. The source of the powder are the 12 Rings of the Dead, and our story centres on Gamma Akutabi, a cybernetically-enhanced man who's on the trail of the 12 Rings. His journey's just about to bring him a new companion - young boy Elwood, whose fellow gang members are very interested in the price on Gamma's head...

2 - Baptism of Fire
While Elwood's after the Zombie Powder for decent reasons, Gamma's desire is a bit more self-centred: he just wants to make himself immortal. So far he has one of the 12 Rings of the Dead, but a curious visit to a record store brings him a hint to the location of another. Unfortunately, while Gamma's getting the information he needs, Elwood's busy disobeying orders, and soon lands himself in trouble - trouble that he again needs Gamma to extract him from...

3 - Smith
Gamma's information takes him and Elwood to the town of Gridgeller, where if he's been told the truth there should be a Ring of the Dead for him to find. Unfortunately, local gang the Ash Daughters are aware that Gamma's on his way, and they're after the Ring that he's already carrying. They've got help, too - the enigmatic Mr Smith, who proves his talent by being able to sneak up on Gamma without being noticed, and Gamma and Elwood are soon in the gang's custody. But Smith doesn't appear to be entirely loyal...

4 - Shakin' Edges & Smokin' Barrels
With Smith's help, Gamma and Elwood are soon free again, and the truth is revealed - Smith is Gamma's partner, and has been working his way into the Ash Daughters' trust so he and Gamma can get their hands on the gang's Rings of the Dead. But while the gang have some Rings, actually getting to them is another story - and the gang's leader appears to be no pushover...

5 - Face Behind the Mask
Elwood and the others arrive in the torture chamber beneath the Ash Daughters' base, just in time to safe the young woman there from an untimely end. There's another boy there - at first glance the little brother of the woman they've saved, but it soon turns out that she's a lot more dangerous than she appears. Meet Ranewater Calder, leader of the Ash Daughters...

6 - Deceiving Jet Joe
Battle is joined between Gamma and Ranewater, and for someone so small Ranewater sure packs some punch - that's more to do with the rocket attached to his blade than through his own strength, but it's enough to give the boy an apparent advantage. While Smith isn't inclined to intervene in the fight to help his partner, though, there is another way he's able to help - you see, Ranewater's hiding a secret, and Smith knows what it is...

7 - Backfired
Free from any sense of guilt, Gamma's fighting style changes drastically, and Ranewater's soon in trouble. Keeping a close eye on Gamma's technique leads him to believe he's spotted a weakness, though, and he puts his all into one more attack. Gamma's not so gullible, though - as one of only a few masters of the Karinzan Jutsu style of martial arts, he's not about to be beaten by some self-taught gang lord...

So. Zombie Powder is from the same author / artist that brought you Bleach, Tite Kubo, and just as Bleach has some good and some bad about it, so does Zombie Powder. With this being a Shonen Jump title, you can expect that fighting will form a large chunk of the story, and on that front you won't be too heavily disappointed - lead antihero Gamma packs a chainsword as his weapon of choice, and is the last master of the ancient martial art known as Karinzan Jutsu - a style so powerful and difficult to learn that in the 2,000 years of the style's existence, there have been only 20 masters. Where the other 19 took years to master their art, Gamma took just months, so in short: he is not the one with whom to mess. He's also not the good guy - he's after the Zombie Powder purely for his own selfish ends, he's not beyond killing, and his associates are just as bad as he is.

So how did general good-guy Elwood some to be his traveling partner? Because Gamma saved his life from the gang thugs he'd become entagled with, and because the Zombie Powder holds the key to bringing his dead sister back to life. Here is someone with pure motives, and who already seems to have the ability to keep Gamma's excesses at least slightly in check. Also in the group is the mysterious Smith, who appears decent enough but is just as deadly in his own way as Gamma is.

The source of conflict in the series are the 12 Rings of the Dead, which when combined will create the elusive Zombie Powder - you can see the basic idea becoming a format of meet a gang, beat them up to gain their ring, move on - and this volume runs through the first iteration of that formula. The basic setting has definite Trigun vibes, and that helped pique my curiosity for this volume at least, but none of the characters are all that appealing. Why should I care for Gamma's search, if he's not doing it for a good motive? Elwood has his own past record of misdeeds - albeit in a good cause - and that didn't particularly leave me liking him, either. I'm not a believer in the ends justifying the means.

Artwork is decent enough, though - no problems with clarity of art or text, and there's some good detail in places - but that's not enough to make up for deficiencies in the story. As a straight fighting story there's enough to keep you entertained, but if you want some decent plot, this isn't at the stage yet where it quite works. Maybe future volumes will address that, but we're not there yet.

Rating - ***

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