Three years ago, a magical catastrophe killed 200,000 people and turned Manhattan into a hostile magical wasteland. One of those responsible, young magician Isaac Silverberg, was captured. The other, calling himself the Midnight King, rules the monstrous inhabitants of the ruined Manhattan. Isaac, who claims innocence, is on death row – until a stranger whisks him away. The man explains that the Midnight King has kidnapped his daughter, Nichole. Since technology doesn’t work in the magician’s domain, all efforts to rescue the girl have ended in disaster. If anyone can save her, it’s going to take a wizard. Specifically, Isaac.
On the island, a girl named Hope has spent the past three years fighting to survive. When goblins, harpies, giants, and other terrible and hungry creatures surged into Manhattan, Hope’s family was killed. A priest rescued Hope and trained her to fight monsters, telling her that they are demons and devils and that this is Hell come to Earth. Since losing this charming mentor to the monsters, Hope has been alone except for her pet imp, Lars, for whom she and the priest inexplicably made an exception to their “monsters are evil, kill them all” rule.
Isaac and Hope meet, forming an uneasy alliance. She’s suffered horrors and he’s been tricked into helping cause horrors; he’s got the magic powers and she’s got the fighting skills and knowledge about the monsters they face. And Lars, of course. All of which together might be enough to rescue Nichole, and maybe even defeat the Midnight King. Except that Nichole and her father have an agenda of their own.
Hope is an oddity. Three years of isolated living and training with a priest has left her a girl who’s not great at normal conversation but spouts a lot of generic stuff about God’s will. And who keeps a pet imp, wears a tiny skirt and a cape, and packs a katana. (Those wacky fighting priests and their miniskirt-and-katana training protocols!) She’s kind to cute-and-cuddly Lars, but utterly merciless to other monsters – which feels a bit weird, given that comic moments through the book often hinge on the monsters acting human. They eat people, sure, but they also flirt, have friends, work catering jobs, and, in some cases, have names and considerable dialogue. Up until Hope slices and dices them.
Indeed, it’s in part thanks to Hope that this book has an extremely high Heads Impaled by Things count. Likewise Jets of Blood. This is a violent book, is what I’m saying. Gore galore.
Note also that, while there’s no actual sex, one character’s “merging” with a monster involves a lot of tentacles and dialogue that makes the sexual parallels even clearer. There are also some very-female monsters, none of whom technically wear clothes; scales and the like cover most of them, but not all. And while Hope keeps her clothes on, there’s only so much fighting you can do in a fluttery miniskirt without throwing around a few panty shots.
Extensive use of hatching gives the art a different feel from a lot of manga art: sketchier, not so crisp. The clever timing also deserves a mention. When the book switches from following one set of characters to following another, the two groups’ dialogue often forms a segue, even though they’re having very different conversations. Similarly, characters’ narration is sometimes superimposed on actions happening elsewhere such that the two complement each other.
The opening premise – a wizard bound for the electric chair – is unusual, and the reactions of the military outside Manhattan add an interesting dimension to the story. The sometimes-inventive writing can, however, be quite clichéd, especially in dialogue. This is a solid option, though, if you’re looking for oodles of monsters and battle scenes. Or, I guess, if you really, really hate Manhattan.