There are two universal truths in today’s rapidly changing comics industry. The first is that Dog Man is the defining comic of our era. The second is that more people are reading manga and webtoons (aka vertical scroll comics) than ever before. Therefore, we at The Beat have chosen to embark on a new venture: Beat’s Bizarre Adventure. Every week, three writers recommend some of their favorite books and series from Japan, Korea, and elsewhere. This week, we have Mesopotamian myth, the return of a horror master, and sheep-head gangster motorcyclists.

hongkki's mesopotamian mythology cover woman in white shift

Hongkki’s Mesopotamian Mythology

Story and Art: Hongkki
Platform: TappyToon, Naver

When I browse for new webtoons or vertical comics to read, I look for stories that stand out among the sea of romance, boys’ love, and girls’ love webtoons that dominate the scene. This is how I found out about Hongkki’s Mesopotamian Mythology on TappyToons. Created and illustrated by Hongkki, this webtoon retells Sumerian and Akkadian myths for modern audiences. Considering the popularity of Greek myth, I’m overjoyed to find a webtoon centered on a less omnipresent culture.

Hongkki’s mythological retellings include everything from the creation of the universe and the world to the gods and heroes from that culture. Each episode is a decent length and captures these stories just as they were recorded and told.

My only gripe is that the designs depict the gods and people of West Asia as pretty Korean folks wearing clothing from that time. I was hoping to see characters drawn to look like depictions of Sumerians and Akkadians. However, authentic character designs were not Hongkki’s intent. The series’ goal is, first and foremost, to reintroduce these tales to modern audiences. Hongkki’s appreciation for history and mythology is clear to see.

Hongkki’s illustrations and detailed line art are drawn with love and care, paired against simple flats with strong cell shading techniques. However, you can tell the backgrounds were made via CG assets by how the lighting is reflected on the models; they could be improved upon by shading by hand. Aside from my nitpick regarding the whitewashing of the cast, the clothing designs are well done. I can tell the author researched the outfits on reliefs and statues from that era, which is refreshing to see in a webtoon. The last comic I’ve read in this vein was Kentaro Miura’s Duranki, inspired by Mesopotamian myth. I would recommend checking that out as well if that interests you.

Hongkki’s Mesopotamian Mythology can be read on TappyToons in English and Naver in Korean. It’s easy to catch up since the series is ongoing. I recommend this webtoon to any reader who enjoys soaking in the history and lore of old. — Justin Guererro

town of pigs cover pigs behind bars

The Town of Pigs

Story/Art: Hideshi Hino
Translation: Dan Luffey
Lettering: Kelly Ngo
Publisher: Star Fruit Books

Hideshi Hino is one of those masters of horror manga beloved by old heads. Several of his works were translated and published in English in the ’90s and early ’00s. But his books have been long out of print and hard to find. Thankfully, Star Fruit Books picked up the baton and is ready to re-establish Hino’s place in the West. 

The Town of Pigs follows a young boy who witnesses the destruction of his town by demons. They round up the residents and torture them, intending to turn them into pigs. It’s a riveting story that holds unsettling horrors within. Hard to look away from, but justifiably so.

Much of it goes unexplained. I still find the ending beyond my grasp — perhaps someone can explain it to me one day — but that doesn’t take away from the reading experience.

Hino’s artwork is also top-notch. His characters are a bit cartoonish but in an uncanny valley sort of way. They’re part human, part caricature, not quite right. It’s a style that works for me.

This is a quick read. The dialogue is secondary to the art. The demons are depicted in shadows, which adds to the eerie tone. I highly recommend The Town of Pigs, especially if you’re a horror manga fan searching for gory goodness. — Derrick Crow

choujin x cover masked boy

Choujin X

Writer/Artist: Sui Ishida
Translation: Jan Cash
Lettering: Steve Dutro
Publisher: Viz Media

Tokyo Ghoul launched Sui Ishida‘s career as a mangaka. Its detailed artwork and dark storytelling became a hallmark of his style, but the strain of publishing the series on a relentless schedule took a toll on his health. Once Tokyo Ghoul:re finished in 2018, Ishida disappeared from the manga scene except for sporadic updates about his contributions to the visual novel Jack Jeanne.

In 2021, Ishida shocked everyone when he made his grand comeback with a new work: Choujin X. But this series was very different from his first. Not only did Ishida have more freedom in his uploading schedule, but Choujin X also took on a different style.

Choujin X follows two friends, Tokio Kurohara and Azuma Higashi, who could not be more different from each other. Azuma is the type to rush headfirst into a fight to defend someone. Tokio is content with staying on the sidelines. One night, they inject a serum to turn themselves into Choujin, humans whose supernatural powers are connected to their emotions and desires.

Choujin X is funnier than Tokyo Ghoul, almost bordering on absurdist. We’re talking about scenes like the one where sheep-head gangster motorcyclists chase after a country bumpkin on a tractor. But Ishida also keeps the heartfelt and serious moments from Tokyo Ghoul. The story slows down its pacing at climatic points, such as the confrontation between Tokio and Azuma. It’s like Ishida is taking Choujin X as an opportunity to experiment. It might not be for everyone, but it works for me.

One reason Tokyo Ghoul became such a favorite among fans is the quality of Ishida’s artwork. He ups his game in Choujin X, with action sequences fluidly transitioning from one scene to the next. The strokes of his pen make his artwork look like scenes out of paintings. Ishida’s attention to detail means that fans must read and reread each chapter to find every scrap of symbolism.

Choujin X is published on an unpredictable schedule. New chapters might be released weekly, biweekly, or longer. If that means Ishida can take his time drawing at no expense to his physical and emotional health, I’m sure fans won’t mind. — Hilary Leung

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