Review

Maximum Ride: The Manga, Volume 1

written by James Patterson; illustrated by NaRae Lee

Maximum “Max” Ride and her “Flock” of five friends are ordinary young people --- with one important exception: They have wings. Unfortunately, although they are capable of flying free high up in the air, they live in fear of being taken against their will back into bondage, back to the sinister lab known euphemistically as the “School,” the place where they were permanently altered into their current mutant forms.

Still, they have survived on the proverbial outside for four years now, at first under the care and guidance of Jeb Batchelder, a scientist who helped them escape from the lab, and now under Max’s protective wing. Unfortunately, even she is not able to keep them safe forever, and goons from the school overpower them and kidnap their youngest, the innocent Angel. With their safe haven no longer safe, the Flock takes to the skies after the bad guys. They will get Angel back…if it’s the last thing they ever do. Too bad it might indeed well be the last thing they ever do!

This volume of the Maximum Ride: The Manga is adapted from James Patterson’s young adult novel THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT, the first of an ongoing series starring Max and her friends. It follows the original overarching plot closely, though much detail has been omitted. Even so, it is relatively easy to follow the manga’s story, even as a newcomer to the franchise. The premise and large cast of characters are introduced in a readily comprehensible fashion, generally speaking, if not the most dynamic or exciting one.

Korean comic book artist NaRae Lee was specifically recruited by Yen Press to do the Maximum Ride manga, and she is a solid choice for attracting the attention of teenage and female readers. Her illustrations are polished and professional, and she draws in a style that is heavily influenced by Korean sunjeong manhwa, which is in turn heavily influenced by Japanese shoujo manga. Lee’s main weakness is her action sequences, which are a bit heavy-handed and clumsy. The character designs of the members of the Flock are most reminiscent of those drawn by Su-yeon Won (Let Dai) or Yoko Kamio (Boys Over Flowers), especially in the shape of the eyes. There are definitely some American influences as well, though. Ari, for example, looks like a steroidal, mutant wolf-man cut and pasted straight out of an X-Men comic, and the assertiveness of her lines seems to take into consideration the manga’s American audience.

Maximum Ride: The Manga is a strong so-called global manga production that simultaneously capitalizes upon a popular franchise and potentially extends its reach to a new, manga-reading demographic. Though not necessarily revelatory, the multinational production is entirely convincing and of much higher quality than similar endeavors from other publishers. Plus, with eight color pages, excellent paper quality and a larger-than-average trim size, the volume will look quite well placed on the manga shelves of bookstores. The $10.99 price point is also very competitive. This is a manga that boasts unexpected pleasures, and even fans who would otherwise be tempted to be dismissive ought to give it a chance.

Reviewed by Casey Brienza on January 27, 2009

Maximum Ride: The Manga, Volume 1
written by James Patterson; illustrated by NaRae Lee

  • Publication Date: January 27, 2009
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yen Press
  • ISBN-10: 0759529515
  • ISBN-13: 9780759529519