In Spain, some police officers find a mountain of grotesque bodies that no longer look quite human. One man, a Korean archeologist named Teze Yoo, is there to burn the bodies. He’s taken into police headquarters for questioning, where he tells police they must evacuate the area, because it’s a virus that attacked all those people, and then he starts talking about the world’s first murder. He asks the police if they’ve ever heard of the neuri, because all this began with them. Some sort of human-turned-beast attacks the police department and Teze walks off into the night.
From there, the World Health Organization reaches out to Dr. Rua Itsuki, who is a medical doctor and an archeologist, and someone who can stand her own ground with her background in tae kwon do and krav maga. They talk about people turning into monsters in different incidents around the world, and Teze always seems to show up there. They say the monster-changing is because of a virus, which they call the Wolf Virus. Because of her expertise, and because she went to school with Teze, the WHO wants Dr. Itsuki to help them get to the bottom of this.
From there we get into a mix of mythology and mystery, mixing works of Herodotus, the conquest of Darius, the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, and vampires and werewolves. How all of this will come together has yet to be seen, as King of Eden is a series and this first volume just gets things set up.
The book is written by Takashi Nagasaki, well-known for his work with Naoki Urasawa, one of Japan’s premiere comic book creators. The art is done by SangCheol Lee (using the pen name Ignito) who has a deft touch. The first chapter is done in color, which is unusual for a manga (a Japanese comic book), but after that it switches to black and white. Black and white, as any fan of old horror movies knows, can make its own atmosphere, and Lee does that expertly. Lee has a style that doesn’t entirely fit with manga or manhwa (Korean comics), but can blend the two with Western influences as well. The first volume comes in at about 400 pages, because Yen Press is publishing the series in omnibus format, and it reads in the traditional right-to-left manga format.
King of Eden was first published in 2015, only making its way into English this year, the same year the world is dealing with a real-life pandemic. This leaves the question: how does it feel to read about a pandemic during a pandemic? It might seem a little queasy at first, but because the virus here is so over-the-top and turns people into Halloween-like animals, it gives no feelings of reflecting what’s really going on. In other words, it still feels like escapism, not realism.
This could be a good read for fans of horror manga, or already existing fans of Takashi Nagasaki. With each manga he works on, Nagasaki brings something new and interesting to the table.