Written by Ross Locksley on 21 Nov 2017
Distributor Kodansha Comics • Author/Artist Kore Yamazaki • Price £10.99
The story of Faust is well known, or so you might think. The rich socialite that made a deal with the devil to obtain his heart's desires has seen many variations through the years - the legend of Faust is based on a German fairy tale that centred around the historical Johann Georg Faust, a German alchemist who lived between the 1400's and 1500's.
But forget all that, because you can't believe everything you read, especially fairy tales! Enter Frau Faust, the tale of Johanna Faust upon whom the legends are in fact based. Not only is she still alive, but she's also actively searching for the demon Mephistopheles, the author of her devilish pact.
Far from the stuffy scholar of legend, Johanna is a driven but kind doctor who has a flair for the mystical arts and otherworldly creatures. Upon visiting a provincial town, she meets a young man named Marion who has fallen on hard times. Eliciting a favour in return for hiding Marion from the authorities, the curious thief decides to follow Johanna and learn what he can from her experiences.
Johanna's journey is fraught with peril however - the Church is looking to stop Faust from reclaiming the scattered limbs of Mephistopheles, and even though the good Doctor tries to help the people she meets along her travels, her enemies are tenacious and unyielding.
The story itself moves at a fair pace, and introducing a new companion allows us to discover Faust's eccentricities as if we were experiencing them first-hand. It's a trope that's almost as old as the Faustian legend, but it works well enough in establishing the environment and worldviews within.
Art is solid if not spectacular - mostly my issues centred around Mephistopheles, as an incomplete body is sometimes a bit confusing. Whether the translation or oft-strange panels were the cause of some of my confusion I'm still unclear, but regardless the story itself was strong enough to pull me through some of the areas I struggled with and are really a re a fairly minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things.
The book delivers in most key areas - mystery, magic, the occult, fighting and unusual creatures, it's squarely aimed at the fantasy crowd, but maintains enough grounding and subtlety of dialogue to appeal to an older, more mature audience. Faust herself is engaging and worldly, an almost Doctor Who-style protagonist to root for. Clever but not invincible, relying on guile rather than brawn, she's an interesting foil to a ideological Church steadfastly following doctrine.
Overall this is a promising start to the series, and I'm looking forward to following Johanna's most unusual journey.
Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
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