Space zombies, and synthetic humans, and a talking bear. Oh my!
VIZ Media's latest release, Biomega, takes all three of these things and mashes them together into a rather compelling, if not somewhat bizarre, science fiction horror manga. Created by Tsutomu Nihei, Biomega originally hit Japan in 2004. The book ran for six volumes, and it took some time, but today we're finally looking at the first installment in English. Was it worth the wait?
In many respects the concept in Biomega has been tackled repeatedly before by many. How many times have zombies decimated society? For that matter, how many times have space zombies threatened our extinction? While Biomega follows this familiar path it does a few things different with its premise. For starters the manga takes place well into the future (the year 3005 A.D. to be exact) and sees humanity venturing further into the solar system. There have been colonies on Mars that nobody has visited for years, and though this technology exists humanity seems to remain largely on Earth.
After an opening that takes place on the barren wasteland of Mars Biomega launches its main story one year later. A lone warrior named Zoichi, an agent of Toa Heavy Industries, is riding towards a massive citadel in search of something. It's not long until he comes across a pack of drones (zombies) and accidentally winds up injuring a girl who seemed to be on the run from them. Despite being dismembered, her body pulls itself together and she gets up to run away. Adding to Zoichi's bewilderment the girl is rescued by a talking bear with a gun and the two make their escape.
It turns out the girl is named Eon Greene and she's something known as an Accommodator. Basically what that means is she is a drone whose body has actually melded with the virus on a genetic level. She's essentially a zombie queen who will live forever and is virtually impossible to kill. A mysterious organization is collecting other Accommodators in order to restart the human race. All that stands between them and the annihilation of humanity is Zoichi. Complicating matters is the fact that a drone is high up in the atmosphere releasing spores that will infect basically everyone. To say Zoichi has a bit of a struggle ahead of him would be an understatement.
Biomega stands out thanks to its dark gritty artwork by Nihei. The heavily penned lines convey a great sense of action and motion in nearly every panel. Whether Zoichi is riding his bike, dropping a room full of enemies before his gun's barrel cools, or launching a laser at an ICB missile, the look of this book is really dynamic. Sometimes the style overtakes the details and there's just too much going on, but that flaw is easy to overlook.
The first volume of Biomega is quite frankly over before you know it. There's sparse dialogue and its story is largely told by the action that fills every page. Still, the manga manages to bring together an interesting sci-fi zombie tale, entertaining characters, and loads of style. It leaves you wanting the second volume, which is ultimately what a good manga should hope to achieve. Recommended.