Rating: 3.5/5 – Never Judge a Book By Its Cover…Unless It’s This One
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
Let’s be honest…these funnybooks aren’t getting any cheaper. Of course it’s the nature of commerce for things to increase in price as time moves on, but unfortunately for many of us, wages haven’t quite caught up to that increase. As a result, we’ve had to become ever more vigilant and discerning readers when it comes to what we buy. Do we really want – or can we afford – those variant covers for the upcoming DC or Marvel mega-event? How can we justify continuing to buy Title X when it goes up to five bucks a pop? Is this hobby of ours pricing itself out of our reach?
The manga world is no different. A good manga will set you back anywhere from nine to fifteen dollars, and if you multiply that by the number of volumes in a planned series, you could find yourself missing a car payment or skipping that super-sizing of your McDonald’s meal to pay for it. Because of that, the studious manga reader often spends a good while reading up on potential series before making the commitment. Who is the creator, or creators? How long is this series? Am I going to get enough bang for my buck? All part of a massive pseudo-scientific equation that we run through our brains before we lay our money down. And then a title like Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer comes along, and all the theory and formulae go out the window. Because that title is just too awesome to ignore.
I know, I know – never just a book by its cover (or its title, for that matter) – but this book would not be ignored. Say it out loud with me – Lucifer…and the Biscuit Hammer – and maybe you’ll see what I mean. Rarely do I buy a book sight unseen without doing a little research first, but this one I had to check out based on those five magic words alone. All too often, this is a recipe for disaster. You buy that book for the hot babe drawn by J. Scott Campbell on the cover, only to discover the art on this inside was drawn by Ernie Dinklefwat and doesn’t hold up (and the hot babe never shows up). You see that title on the sole X-book you’re not collecting which loudly proclaims “THIS TIME….someone DIES!” and you pick it up only to find out it was some random passerby you didn’t care about. So yes, it’s a gamble…but sometimes gambles pay off.
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer turned out to be a really fun read. It’s not the greatest, mind-blowing, change-your-life-and-worldview epic that everyone should read before they die, nor does it have artwork that will force the rest of the manga-creating world to up their games or go crying back to their salaryman jobs. It’s simply a fun read. I’d lamented the conclusion of Excel Saga a year or so back when its final volume was published. Where would its spiritual successor come from? Will there ever be something to match the macap insanity of that title?
Well, this book comes very close. Amamiya Yuuhi is an average student, and the book goes to some length to drive that point home. Nothing interesting ever happens in his life, and it’s not hard to draw a parallel to the way many of us, with our world of routines and subroutines, live our own lives. So when he meets a talking lizard who tells him he’s destined to be a knight protecting a princess before the fabled Biscuit Hammer destroys the earth, you’d think you’ve got the makings of an extraordinary tale, but nothing beyond your average manga fare, right? We’ve seen this story before. Okay, but what if the princess in question only wants to stop the hammer from destroying the earth because SHE actually wants to destroy it? And what if Yuuhi goes along with it because…meh…is this really a world worth saving?
While perhaps not as random as Excel Saga, or as completely out-there as FLCL, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer still reminds me of the fun I had reading those titles. Think of it as something in that vein, but more accessible, with less sub-plotting and in-joking, but still enough humor to make for a good time. One of the joys of reading manga is that it’s not like most of the mainstream books Western audiences collect, and once you get ingrained enough into reading manga, you find a joy in reading books that turn even the most storied tropes on their side. Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer will not be the greatest manga you’re likely to ever read in your life, but I think it’ll hold a special place in your heart – and on your bookshelf – if you’re the type of person who likes to take a gamble on a book simply because it has a title that promises something different.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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