Column: Global Ghoul: Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 2

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Nihei, Tsutomu. Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 2. Vertical, Inc., 2013. $12.95. ISBN: 978-1-935654-81-0.

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[dropcap]K[/dropcap]nights of Sidonia is a passable book. It does everything it needs to do. It tells a story using words and pictures. But it’s too much like eating a meal that does nothing more than leave you less hungry when you are done. There’s no flavor. No aesthetic experience.

This is my first book by Nihei. I’ve always enjoyed paging through his books. Biomega and Blame! both looked amazing, but, for some reason, I never took them up to the register and bought them. I was thrilled when Knights of Sidonia arrived in the mail, but that thrill faded as I read it.

Keep in mind that this is Volume 2 and that I haven’t read Volume 1. Though I’m not sure it matters. I’ve read several second issues of comic books that have sent me on a frantic search for the first issue. This just isn’t one of them.

Knights of Sidonia has one of the basic Space Opera plots. Humans crowd into colony ships, with only a small cadre of plucky young pilots to protect them. In this case, Garde pilots fly mechas called “Kazibashis” to protect the refugees from the Gaunas. Gaunas are large, disgusting organisms that attacked Earth (presumably in the last volume), splitting the planet in two and driving humanity into space.

The space battles between the Garde pilots and the Gaunas lack an emotional core because it’s difficult to connect with the characters. This may be because I missed the first volume, but I really don’t think so. I read Volume 2 a few times in order to create a connection to the characters and it didn’t work. They are practically interchangeable. No matter if they are pilots, support crew, or commanders, they all act the same: muted non-reactions to events and placid faces. Flat characters are one of the major problems with Knights of Sidonia.

The art is another major problem, for two reasons. One: The action and storytelling are often confusing and muddy. I kept wishing I could pull the camera back a little bit so that I could see what was going on. And panels didn’t flow into one another all that well. Two: Nihei stripped his art of all of its former personality. His once-creepy, scratchy inking has been replaced by flat, emotionless lines. Before he changed his style, it was easy to spot his work, but now I couldn’t pick it out of a lineup. I’m okay with artists experimenting with new styles – it often leads to interesting things – but it doesn’t for Nihei, not in this book.

The dialogue is also a problem. It’s often stunted and awkward. And Nihei attempts to begin scenes in the middle of conversations, but it doesn’t work. Bendis and Chaykin are both good with this convention, but Nihei needs some practice.

I just paged through Knights of Sidonia again, looking for a moment that jumped out at me, because I feel I need to say something good about the story. There’s a brief interlude where Hoshijiro and Tanikaze (female and male respectively) are trapped together in a bubble-craft in the Underwater Floating Tank ride. They share a tender moment while they watch sea creatures languidly pass by. Only a few of the 175 pages of story made much of an impact, but it’s better than none.

I wish I had more to say about Knights of Sidonia. It’s always difficult to write a review about a book that inspires almost no reaction.

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Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 2 has only a 4 out of 10 chance of waking Cthulhu from his eternal slumber for being merely functional.

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