9789812769343
Brought to you by a group of young people, Singaporeans, it seems (at the time of publication, most of them seem to be below 25 or at most 30 years old). The work was published under the MDA First Time Writers and Illustrators Publishing Initiative.

About half of them were co-writers and the other half colourists: Shawn Yap (creator & artist), Gabriel Chua, Nathan Peng, Daniel Barrett Lee, Xander Lee, Regina Lee, Amanda Yap, Beryl Kwok.

According to the blurb, this collection collects all six chapters published in M.U.G.E.N. and includes extra pages and revamped artwork.

The graphic novel takes place in a fictional city called Central City. The protagonist is a detective who belongs to mysterious anti-crime family/ clan, whose leadership was a hereditary title passed from fathers to sons. Upon taking the role, the leader loses all personal identity and assumes the anonymous name of Jack Doe. The role is to “protect the city from the shadows” by solving cases that “no one else can”. Jack Doe has no powers, other than possessing a pack of tarot cards as part of his crime-solving arsenal.

The novel starts with a murder of Jack’s friend, the police commissioner. The mystery deepens when Jack is being pursued by people intent on killing him. There’s a sub-plot that attempts to delve into Jack’s psyche, his past, and a recurring dream where he sees himself killed.
Interesting premise. The storyline though, raises several questions that became a distraction to the flow.

For instance, being a detective with an office, isn’t quite anonymous. And with no apparent powers or abilities, he seems to be pitched against super-powered beings (though in the story, he never quite fight with all of them, save one).

The flow of the story was, for want of a better description, not as smooth and coherent as it could be. I sense that there’s an attempt to weave a plup-mystery, hardboiled detective mystery story.
The saving grace were two things: the artwork (one of the more polished styles I’ve seen, and not just from Singaporean works) and the twist at the end.

It would be a crime to give away the plot-twist. I’ll just say it takes a somewhat familiar concept of “a world within worlds” and setting up for a clash between the creator and those who were created.

I thought the end-part should have been made a recurrent idea throughout the story, with a few more hints along the way rather than leave it to the last part. The ‘Reveal’ was too abrupt in this case.

Overall, the art and graphic flow was good but the script was the weak link.
Still, as a first time work, I’ll give them a thumbs up. And honestly, I would be keen to read more of what they have to produce.

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