Writer: In-Wan Youn | Artist: Kyung-Il Yang
(this article originally appeared in Rue Morgue #35, Sept./Oct. 2003)
Island (7 volumes, from Korea) tells the story of an island called Cheju that is overrun with demons, though most people don’t know it, and those who find out almost never live to tell about it. To make matters worse, there’s a serial killer stalking the premises.
Into this mix comes Miho Won, a rich girl sent to Cheju to become a teacher and representative of her father’s business interests. Miho soon encounters the serial killer Pan, and learns that he may not be all his reputation has made him out to be. The two strike an uneasy truce, with Miho paying Pan for each demons he kills, using an enchanted knife and secret magicks.
As the series goes on, mysteries spring up and questions go unanswered. Along with the demons, Miho and Pan confront possessed children, a butler who is more than he appears, priests, monks, and racist killers.
The series, written by In-Wan Youn and drawn by Kyung-Il Yang, isn’t perfect. Island falls prey to some of the less interesting tendencies of manga (or in the case of Korean comics, manwa): fights that exist for no reason other than to display the characters’ powers and drag on for twenty pages, breasts heaving snugly inside tight shirts, cheesecake shots, and, of course, the “cool” skateboard kid who is all sass and little substance.
These weaknesses aside, Island is still an entertaining series. Kyung-Il Yang’s art is highly detailed and uses textures and fills to great effect. His compositions are smart and inventive, and his designs for demons terrific. And even though many of the boys end up looking like girls, Island is a visual treat.
In-Wan Youn’s story is fun, fast-paced, and full of intrigue, to say nothing of the fascinating footnotes that end many of the chapters and provide background on aspects of the story. While Island may not be the most serious or deep manga ever produced, it’s a lot of fn when you’re looking for a story with skull viruses, monsters, and a whole lot of speed lines.