Zombiepowder, vol. 1-4

Gamma Akutabi, a mysterious man with a black metal hand, wanders a Wild West-like desert world looking for the 12 Rings of the Dead, magical items that are the source of Zombiepowder, which can reanimate the dead and give eternal life to the living. Along the way he meets up with a series of people in need of help from a fast sword.

This is Kubo’s first published work. It was serialized starting in 1999, two years before his mega-hit Bleach started its run in Weekly Shonen Jump. As an early work, it is an interesting look at an artist’s growth and development. Like in Bleach, Kubo’s characters have intelligence, cocky attitudes, cool fighting moves, and, in the case of many of the girls, the gigantic breasts. In addition to the serious moments when characters struggle with death, family issues, guilt, and courage, there are also lighter moments, humorous asides which help alleviate the darkness. This is a much bloodier manga than Bleach, however, earning it an OT rating from VIZ.

Since the two series were released so close together, there isn’t much difference in the art style between Zombiepowder and the early chapters of Bleach. Starting in volume two fans can begin seeing Kubo’s distinctive illustrations for the chapter breaks, which often have the characters in more modern, rather hip-hop style clothes and poses and which incorporate the name of the series within the art. Extras are included in the last three volumes. In volume two there is the short bonus story “Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine,” Kubo’s first work, written when he was 18. The characters in that story don’t yet have his trademark sharp-faced look, but the story has the twists and turns readers have come to associate with him. The short in volume four, “Bad Shield United,” shows the growth his art style underwent during a period of about two years.

The only problem with Zombiepower is that it is unfinished, leaving readers hanging at the end, just as they are beginning to get to know the characters. I’m not sure why it stopped being serialized, but I do hope that he picks it back up at some time. Gamma’s world is an interesting one and I’d love to read more about it. Fans who are looking for more works by a beloved creator, especially those who want to see his early efforts, will enjoy this four-volume series. It will also appeal to readers looking for a high octane, high action, fast read.

Zombiepowder, vol. 1-4
Tite Kubo
Vol. 1, ISBN: 978-1-4215-0152-9
Vol. 2, ISBN: 978-1-4215-0153-6
Vol. 3, ISBN: 978-1-4215-1121-4
Vol. 4, ISBN: 978-1-4215-1122-1
VIZ, 2006-2007