Review: East Coast Rising Vol. 1 – Becky Cloonan

East Coast Rising Vol. 1 by Becky Cloonan
Publication: TokyoPop (April 11, 2006), Paperback, 192 pages / ISBN 1598164686
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi (kinda), YA, Graphic Novel
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Seafaring Challenge II (#2)
Read: July 2009

In one sentence: Action and adventure wrapped in fabulous artwork and a decent plot.

I love books about pirates, books about futuristic, possibly post-apocalyptic worlds, and books with weird villains. I am also mildly interested in Western comics done with a Japanese manga flair, and since East Coast Rising has all those things, it was a good match.

Summary from Amazon:

When his ship is attacked by pirates, Archer is left floating adrift in a violent sea. But the young urchin is nothing if not resilient. He soon finds himself sailing with the infamous Cannonball Joe aboard La Revancha, the fastest ship on the East Coast, in search of a legendary hidden treasure. Their dangerous quest will lead directly to a showdown with the Hoboken, one of the most feared pirate vessels ever to sail the Jersey shores, and its reckless captain, Lee. But there are far worse things than pirates that call these waters home…From Eisner Award-nominated artist Becky Cloonan comes a rousing nautical adventure unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before!

The art grabbed me right away. It’s not trying to hard to be manga, thank goodness, but you can clearly see the influence in the character design and the way the ocean is depicted. Think Teen Titans, except with more lines and definition. (You can view a preview of the book on Amazon here, by the way.)

The story started off with a BANG, for sure– the best stories always start with shipwrecks, I find. This shipwreck luckily has a happy turn, as our protagonist, Archer, gets rescued by a crew of…kinda-pirates. (I’m sure they’d prefer to be called smugglers/adventurers.) The rest of the book is pretty much just the pirate crew trying to keep Archer safe while beating another pirate crew to some treasure, and then a sea monster! pops up.

Alright, it’s mostly action, with little plot and a lot of lovely art and fighting, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Though, I will admit that it would have been nice to have a little bit more substance. While the action-packed story is a good opener for a series, I couldn’t help feeling that some things were left out that would have made it even better. Like, say, some background for our main character. I also thought that East Coast Rising could have been more effective if it was produced in a larger size. The small size of the book (7.5 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches, according to Amazon) makes it difficult to appreciate the art (and it’s quite good) and sometimes even makes it hard to read the text. A larger format would have made it easier and more enjoyable, methinks.

On the whole, however, East Coast Rising seems like a fun, exciting story with lots of nifty things like giant sea monsters and crazy, androgynous villains. It’s too bad that TokyoPop dropped it after the first volume, with volume two never having come out despite the author having over 100 pages done (via the author’s website). I’d love to see where the story is going, so that’s a bummer.

Do you know of any other books where people have high seas adventures after an apocalypse? All I can think of is Waterworld, which is of course a movie and also would probably make a terrible book.

Other reviews: Graphic Novel Review (plus some background on “Original English language manga”) | Manga Life | Hobotaku

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