Head and shoulders

June 2, 2008

It’s hard for me not to like a comic about invasive parasites that take over humans and turn their heads into shape-shifting weapons so they can eat uninfected humans. Throw in a parasite that doesn’t quite live up to its potential and ends up trapped in the hand of a high-school student, and my resistance weakens even further.

Okay, so the art in Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte (Del Rey) isn’t all it could be. So the high-school girls look to be around 40 years old. So there are more mullets than might be strictly necessary. Even those minor pitfalls give the series an early-1990s charm that ends up working in its favor.

I always prefer science fiction or fantasy with a healthy dose of character development, and Iwaaki is extremely conscientious on this front. Beyond the human-eating peril the parasites present, there are interpersonal tensions that develop as a result of the extreme circumstances. While the third volume features a great deal of gore, Iwaaki doesn’t neglect smaller moments, even sweetly surreal ones.

The third volume offers weirdness to spare, and it’s delightful. The concluding chapter looks at the response of media, government and law enforcement to the emerging crisis, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in months. And it’s intentionally funny, no less, which makes for a nice change of pace in an otherwise tense narrative.

(Based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)