.hack//Legend of the Twilight, vol. 1
by Tatsya Hamazaki & Rei Izumi
.hack is a comic that's based on an anime, which in turn is based on a video game. If that sounds like a recipe for crap-tastic manga, well, it is. In what passes for a plot, fourteen-year-old twins Shugo and Rena win special avatars with whih they can play in The World, a MMORPG that involves total sensory immersion. The episodes in this volume focus almost entirely on their adventures with the video game, the same sort of stereotypical adventures that populate generic fantasy computer RPG's in the real world. Have you ever had to sit and listen while someone went into great detail about their computer game exploits? Remember how boring that was? It doesn't really improve when done in comic form. Izumi's art, while competent, is so steeped in manga-style cliché that it's almost embarassing. This is just not a good comic.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)
Naruto, vol. 1
by Masashi Kishimoto
Twelve-year-old Uzumaki Naruto wants to be the greatest ninja in his village, but he's the worst student at his ninja school, both ill-behaved and incompetent. But unbeknownst to him, locked inside of him is the spirit of a nine-tailed fox demon, the former bane of his village. When Naruto is tricked into stealing a scroll containing secret ancient ninja techniques, he taps into the powers hidden within him. It's a set-up that could prove to be interesting, but in the later chapters of this first volume it is sacrificed to a clichéd story involving Naruto and two of his classmates combating one of their teachers in order to prove themselves worthy. It's literally page after page of ninja fighting action, which gets old rather quick. Kishimoto's art has a resemblance to standard manga style, but with a bit of a rough edge, and in the few times where he lets himself loose on a two-page spread it gets quite detailed and dramatic. It's standard teenage boy power-fantasy stuff that can't quite rise above its trappings.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)