Thursday, July 30, 2009
Bride of the Water God, vol. 1
The story: Soah's poor village is suffering from a devastating drought and are seeking to appease the water god Habaek by giving him a bride of unequaled beauty. Soah, the town's most alluring maiden, is chosen to be drowned in the river as an offering to him. While Soah expects to die, she's instead saved. Upon her arrival in Habaek's dominion, Suguk, she's thrown into the mystical world of the gods and finds that her husband is only a child. As she learns to navigate her new home, what kind of wife will she be and how will she survive the experience?
Reaction: This tale reminds me so much of the Greek and Roman mythology stories I loved as a young girl. The gods here are just as fickle and mysterious as they were then, if not unfamiliar because of their Korean origins. There's intrigue here and I can't help but follow along on the path that Mi-Kyung Yun has carved. However, much like my experience with Goong, I found myself challenged in remembering Korean honorifics and understanding the intricacies of Soah's journey. While it wasn't particularly difficult to understand, there was some page flipping from time to time.
Deep thoughts: Human sacrifice has been a large part of many ancient cultures throughout time, from the early Romans to the Aztecs. What strikes me as unusual in this story is the lack of witnesses. Soah is simply sent down the river in a boat and it is assumed that she will die in sacrifice to Habaek. In historical accounts, ritual sacrifice was carried out oftentimes in front of a large crowd, much like a congregation witnesses a Christian church service. Of course, without anyone watching, Soah is able to survive and is taken to the land of Suguk.
Artwork: To call the artwork simply lush does it an extreme disservice. It's exquisite to behold, gorgeous in detail and possesses an ethereal quality I've not seen in other graphic novels. The opening color pages are vibrant and made me wish that more of this manhwa was published in color. Habaek's palace is grandiose and opulent, with an unbelievable gravity-defying quality and mysterious aura about it. All of the various gods, goddesses and Soah are long-limbed, seemingly graceful and extremely attractive. Their distinct qualities and elaborate costumes only add to their design. Put simply, Yun's artwork is amazing, and I do not say that lightly.
The verdict: Highly recommended. I can't help but be drawn into the enigmatic and amazingly illustrated world of Suguk. From the characters to the setting to the hints of tragic romance, I'm drawn to a variety of appealing aspects in this fantastic tale. Bride of the Water God is available in the U.S. from Dark Horse.