Daniel X is an unusual fifteen-year-old. Since his parents were murdered by a vicious alien when Daniel was three, he has lived by himself—sort of. Daniel has the ability to manipulate matter, which he uses to create independently-operating manifestations of his dead family and his best friends. The ability to temporarily summon other people who think and act for themselves means that Daniel still has emotional support and backup, which he needs, because he’s made it his life’s mission to track down and eliminate alien outlaws like the one that killed his parents.
Though this first volume starts out with a pretty straightforward premise—Daniel X introduces himself to the reader, then goes after a nasty alien criminal—the book ends up spending a lot of time delving into Daniel’s own background and that of his family. This means the book stands alone well, with Daniel’s powers and origin having been explained by the end. The alien who killed his parents is still at large, so there’s certainly fodder for the continuation of the series. (Which, a quick Google search reveals, currently comprises three volumes total.)
If the above description of Daniel’s powers seems at all confusing, that’s because they kind of are. His main power is described as the ability to manipulate the matter of the universe, yet we rarely see Daniel use it for anything other than summoning his friends and family or, oddly, food. He doesn’t summon weapons when attacked or use his power to break himself out of captivity. Besides which, creating walking, talking, corporeal people with the power of independent thought seems like it might extend beyond even the broad realm of “manipulating matter.” The book also offers no additional explanation for Daniel’s other abilities, which include flight, levitating objects, and super-speed.
There are also some unanswered questions about the people Daniel summons. While the versions of Mom and Dad that manifest on command are aware they were murdered, they never talk about what, if anything, goes on with their consciousness when they aren’t materializing to help Daniel. This might suggest that the manifestations Daniel summons have knowledge limited to his own, but they don’t: he sometimes summons his friends to help with things he doesn’t know, as when he brings in animal expert Emma to deal with an attack dog.
The art is done in a vaguely pretty manga style, with simple screentones and expressive faces. It’s clear and easy to follow, if a bit generic-looking. To give credit where credit’s due, the creepy parts, as when alien Ergent Seth possesses people, see the art shifting into a darker style full of grotesque details. The visual contrast of these scenes with that of the lighter style mirrors the contrast between the grimness of Daniel’s quest and the time spent relaxing with his friends.
There is some normalcy squeezed into Daniel’s fast-paced life: he spends time attending high school, getting a crush, and hanging out with his friends. (Of course, his friends are mystical phantasms, so “normalcy” is relative.) There’s humor and a hint of romance, although don’t hold your breath for that working out. There’s also, of course, a considerable amount of fighting with aliens. Violence is clearly an integral part of this story’s plot, but there’s nothing shocking here, gore-wise. (Aliens seem to favor the dissolving-into-pools-of-slime school of dying.) Through it all, Daniel maintains a flip, sunny attitude.
It goes without saying that fans of James Patterson’s writing will have plenty of reading material. That’s true whether they want to branch out into regular books or stick with manga. This volume ends with a few teaser pages for volume one of the Maximum Ride manga, also by Patterson, so there’s a built-in read-alike recommendation there.
Daniel X: the Manga, vol. 1
by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Art by SeungHui Kye
Yen Press, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: Teen