The latest Shonen manga from Viz, Zombie Powder, is the first manga by acclaimed Bleach creator Tite Kubo. Set in a futuristic/Western influenced world, it follows a young thief named Elwood and "the man with the black hand" and a huge bounty on his head, Gamma Akutabi. If the setting and main character sound familiar, you've probably seen Trigun...
The simlarity of plot ends there though - as the title suggests, the main focus of the series isn't acts of accidental heroics, but rather the search for Zombie Powder, a substance that can grant immortality or even raise the dead. All the incentive young Elwood needs as he joins Gamma in an attempt to reclaim his recently slain sister.
Zombie Powder joins Kazuya Minekura's Bus Gamer as the latest title to hit the shelves from authors who are more famous for later works (in Minekura's case it was Saiyuki), and as such it serves as a bit of a curio for fans who want to see how their favourite manga author's work evolved.
For others, it may be seen as an inferior and discontinued product that helped these people with their craft - both Bus Gamer and Zombie Powder are currently incomplete, and given the popularity of Bleach, it's doubtful we'll be seeing anything beyond the four compilations of Zombie Powder anytime soon.
But does the lack of an ending prohibit the title from being enjoyable? Certainly the stereotypes are out in force here, with an angry, formiddable main character in Gamma, not to mention his good natured but deadly friend (shades of Trigun's Wolfwood abound in Gamma's partner, C.T. Smith). Similarly Elwood is the typical naive-but-skilled youngster caught up in events beyond his understanding, but the manga has sufficient charm to make them work amicably enough.
The author's notes at the beginning of the book recommend turning your brain off in order to read the book, and I'm inclined to agree - as a lesson in how to cram fight scenes into pages, it's a masterclass, with bullets and limbs flying everywhere. The artwork is clear, and a few recognisable angles and poses will be familiar to Bleach fans.
This first volume does a perfectly acceptable job at telling a story, with familiar characters, solid pacing and some nice artwork. But in a market crammed with manga, it isn't going to enjoy much attention when competing with the superior D-Gray Man and Claymore.