Review: Tomo Vol. 1 and 2

It’s amusing that, when I can’t find a Christmas gift for my pamangkin, I might use the money for it to buy myself one. Which I did, hence my review of an American manga series that proves to be more than meets the eye.

Hana would be like any other thirteen-year-old immigrant trying to fit into life at an American school, but she also battles hostile animal-like warriors from the dimension of Argon Falls. In discovering secrets about her identity and her past, Hana bravely faces her enemies and realizes her divinely given purpose.

And with that, we are introduced to the world of Tomo, a graphic novel series from Zondervan Publishing. I bought the first two volumes (actually the two available ones), I Was An Eighth-Grade Ninja and My Double-edged Life (P175.00 each from National Bookstore), both of which I'll be reviewing today.

Andrew Simmons and Rob Corley, who according to the author bios are veterans of the animation industry, wrote the first volume of the series. I Was An Eighth-Grade Ninja introduces us to Hana Akisame's world, as well as the mystical world of Argon Falls, where animal-like beings are in search of the Spirit Sword, an ancient artifact that will bring Argon Falls (and possibly our world) under the rule of it’s tyrannical ruler, Lord Ardath. As far as first issues go, this one does its job real well. Corley and Simmons has made a very interesting character in Hana. She's very relatable, and has a quiet air of dignity and grace around her that's a refreshing change from all the loudmouthed heroes of her age group. But while she's all shy and friendly, make no mistake...Hana is a trained kunoichi (female ninja), and if you piss her off, she'll break your arm (or at least threaten to...she's actually really nice!)

Volume 2, My Double-Edged Life, sees Hana deal with some very vicious bullies as well as a friendship that’s gone south. To make matters worse, the wolf-men have found out where Hana lives, and it’s gonna take more than some fancy karate moves to defend the Spirit Sword!

Jim Krueger (yes, that Jim Krueger...of Earth X and Avengers/Invaders fame) takes up writing duties here, fleshing out the characters and their back stories , as well as upping the badassitude of everyone who lives in Grandpa's dojo. The fight scenes here have to be seen to be believed...this Hana is a young girl you wouldn't wanna mess with!

Both volumes were illustrated by fellow Filipino Ariel Padilla, and his work looks pretty typical of stylized American manga. That’s not to say it’s bad, though. His art is cute, and Volume 2 in particular ups the action quotient of the whole series so far by 300%, with pulse-pounding sword fights and fisticuffs that would make even Daredevil take notice. Though I often get the feeling that I’ve seen some of the characters’ facial expressions before (and I’m pretty certain I know which manga it was taken from), since this is a young adult comic book I don’t think the book’s intended audience would mind that at all.

But what’s really amazing about this series is, you’d never realize that this was from a Christian publishing company. Unlike most Christian comic books I’ve seen that proselytize or namedrop Jesus every other paragraph, Tomo manages to teach good morals like compassion and forgiving your enemies without sounding hamfisted or corny, and it works a whole lot better because of it.

All in all, Tomo is a great read. It's got a strong female lead, moral values that can actually be learned through it (not hammered into you), and enough action and fantasy to appeal to kids and adults alike. I highly recommend giving this to your kids or nephews...and don't be surprised to find yourself hoping you can borrow it after they're done!

My Rating: 8/10

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  1. Cute! Now I know I'm not the only one who liked this book haha!

  2. Welcome to the blog, Markus! There's a lot to like about Tomo. A shame that either I missed a few chapters or there aren't any new ones coming out any time soon.

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  4. I have 1 and 2. The gf read them and enjoyed them both. Now I gotta find copies of issue 3 and beyond - at least I got her to start reading comics :)

  5. I always see her stuff in Fully Booked. :) Great choice for a first comic!