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The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel Vol. #01 Manga Review

5 min read

Yet another tale of clockwork, magic, vampires, and young lust.

Creative Staff
Story: Cassandra Clare
Art/Adaptation: HyeKyung Baek

What They Say
Tessa Gray thought her journey to London would be the beginning of a new life, but she never could have envisioned the dark turn that life would take… Abducted upon her arrival, Tessa is introduced to London’s Downworld, the sordid supernatural underbelly of the city, and informed that her future will be recast to service a man known as “the Magister.” Only the intervention of the London Institute’s Shadowhunters delivers the girl from this fate, but sinister forces are still gathering around Tessa. Even so, Tessa’s attraction to two of the young Shadowhunters who have taken her under their wings may prove more dangerous by far…

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Yen Press has reached into the young adult prose closet once again to pull out another popular series for it’s next foray into manga adaptations. This time it’s Cassandra Clare’s “Infernal Devices” series, which is itself a spin off of her longer running “Mortal Instruments” series. I continue to be impressed with Yen’s ability to license up rival publisher’s series for their own works.

It’s easy to draw comparison’s between Infernal Devices and other recent series. The story begins with almost the same situation as the Early and the Fairy series being released by Viz, which also happens to be a young adult to manga novel adaptation. The Victorian steampunk-infused-with-vampires setting isn’t new, it’s also the setting of the Soulless, yet another young adult series to be adapted by Yen. I think those series do what’s going on here better, in both art and execution.

The story starts by introducing Tessa, an orphan who followed her brother to England who upon arrival is promptly kidnapped by two woman known as the Dark Sisters. Tessa is flighty, indignant and slightly off-kilter, of course a good amount of that attitude might be damage from having been held hostage and tortured for an unspecified amount of time. She is rescued just before being handed over to ‘the magister’ by a flirty young man named Will and his laughably clockwork style sword.

What follows is an exposition dump and a crash course in the strange new world of demons, angels, and monsters that Tessa finds herself in. Tessa just wants to find her brother and get back to New York, but quickly she finds herself drawn into situations beyond her control with forces she doesn’t understand.

The largest problem this book has is it’s first half, where it crams in page after page of exposition and yet leaves a million questions unanswered. Jargon is everywhere in the narrative, yet other things, like what powers a shadowhunter have go unexplained. I haven’t read the prose novel that this has been adapted from, but a quick check tells me that it’s five hundred pages long. Cutting down that much plot to fit into a single volume of a graphic novel might not have been the best way of going about it.

The lead characters fall into varying levels of cypher and archetype. Will is the good looking asshole playboy, Jem the soft spoken and tragic one, while Tessa is the slightly generic good girl trying to save her brother. The rest of the large cast is regulated to side character status, with differing levels of development. It makes it hard to care when a side character meets a violent end when only two pages in the entire book are spent to address that person. Again, it’s a problem of adapting a long book to a single graphic novel volume.

I’m more concerned with the obvious bad boy/good girl set up that’s going on. It’s painfully obvious from the start that Tessa is going to fall for Will, he’s a handsome jerk hiding what is no doubt a painful past. Jem is the more open, more genuine nice guy, who also happens to have a terminal disease and clearly is going to loose out despite being the better guy. These set ups frustrate me to no end, and if the story ends up going that route then I truly have no idea why the author bothered.

The art is another point of contention with me. While the backgrounds and costumes are decent and the characters are well defined, there’s a certain lack of consistency with the characters themselves. Tessa and Will suffer the most, often looking like different people from page to page because of subtle changes in face shape or the size of their eyes. They also don’t look like teenagers, often appearing older than some of the other cast members, like Charlotte whom I’m guessing is older because of her position as head of the organization. The action scenes are also a bit of a mess to follow, brief and infrequent as they are.

Despite all the problems I have with the series, I found myself still wanting to see where the whole thing is going. Hopefully the second volume will address the concerns I have with the story and maybe even surprise me.

In Summary
The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel suffers from trying to do too much in too short a space. It often feels like a haphazard mix of things that the author felt was cool, but lacks an identity of it’s own. The Judeo-Christian mythology stuff adds the one touch of originality to the mix, but it’s not fully explored. Tessa isn’t a particularly interesting lead, but she is surrounded by some interesting people. Yet despite all of my complaints, I was actually invested in the story enough to see what was going to happen. There’s a certain set of readers who will love to gobble this book up. I’m hoping that when the sequel comes along it takes things a bit more slowly, isn’t afraid to trim out the fat, and allows these characters to develop a bit more.

Content Grade: C
Art Grade: B –
Packaging Grade: B +

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
MSRP: $12.99