Set in a fictional 19th century England, D.Gray-Man tells the story of Allen Walker, an orphan with an unusual ability. By utilising the power of Innocence (in this case an actual spiritually powered object) he can see and destroy demons known as Akuma, weapons created from a mix of human souls and magic, orchestrated by a grinning ghoul named The Millenium Earl.
As the story begins, Allen is 15 and has been trained by General Cross of The Black Order, a group of Excorcists who roam the Earth searching for Innocence to create anti-Akuma weapons and defeat The Millenium Earl.
Volume 1 does a fine job laying the groundwork, showcasing Allen's talents and providing some mystery along the way. In this book alone we're introduced to the Millenium Earl, Allen's tragic past, The Black Order and some minor supporting characters - it's a lot to pack in, but the pace is set just right.
The Black Order itself allows for a great supporting cast of Excorcists which the author can dip into any time the roster needs to be shaken up, and each book, so far, has a number of self-contained mysteries that Allen and his allies must solve, ranging from haunted churches to a town suffering from the Groundhog Day effect.
What's important is that D.Gray-Man manages to shift gears effortlessly between comedy, drama and tragedy at any given moment, and no happy endings are guaranteed. There's a truly touching story of a deformed man and his living puppet, which could have descended into farce but manages to be poignent and moving at the finish.
The artwork occasionally has a sketchy quality to it, whilst other panels are very intricate. It's not off putting, but it does lend an uneven polish to the final product. Character designs are distinctive, and The Millenium Earl in particular is a masterpiece of grinning malice. And he wears a different top hat every time he appears, which is a great bit of attention to detail.
The 3 volumes here represent an excellent quality of storytelling, and I can't imagine anyone not finding something to like. In fact, there's enough going on in volume 1 to convince you one way or the other, so pick it up and give it a try!