Guengsi Comic Book Review

Singapore born artist and author, Sean Lam, has been working commercially since 2009. Building off of his love of both comics and manga, Lam’s career has been varied, seeing him working on everything from bible themed series to illustrating for one of the biggest publishers in manga with Seven Seas Entertainment. Despite this, Lam has flown under the radar as a comic book creator, but he has continuously received accolades in his native Singapore with a variety of art projects. Enter his most recent endeavor, a manga styled release influenced by horror manga especially and the folkloric creatures known as the Geungsi.

Intertwining the fates of a slayer of Geungsi named Meng, and a young salaryman, Shaun, who recently transformed into the bloodthirsty creature by an attractive young lady. Destined to be enemies, Shaun manages to make a desperate plea to Meng after saving his life. However, Meng keeps an every watchful eye over the vampire as the two begin a pact to hunt down other blood feeders haunting the streets of Singapore.

From the offset, it is apparent that the title is meant for a mature audience, and not just because of the blood and violence. Exploring the sexual allure of the vampire, the book embraces the prowess of such creatures while simultaneously not refraining from language use reflective of the situation. Rather then being crass, the language presents a more unapologetic storytelling that embraces the rude and lewd without insulting the reader or its characters. Both Shaun and Meng have intriguing, yet polar opposite, personas that instantly draw you into the narrative.

Drawing from the classic folklore of the hopping vampire, the take on the creatures will only feel foreign in title and a nominal variation in lore. As such, Western audiences will feel a familiarity with our own interpretations of vampires and lore, specific to the more classical interpretation of the creatures. The only real difference here, which may confuse readers, is the jumping stance of the Geungsi – though these are easily the most striking panels, seeing the creatures stretched out and leaping with such bravado. Thankfully, Lam’s experience and interest in both Eastern and Western comics makes for an accessible narrative – any cultural unfamiliarity acts a draw as opposed to an obstacle.

Horror fans will be pleased to know that the blood flows in glorious fashion, yet with a needed reserve to put the story first. As such, the title does not dwell in sensationalism, keeping to a tone that is more macabre than visceral. Furthermore the focus on action makes the title slightly reminiscent of a shōnen versus, for example, Junji Ito, Hideshi Hino, or Kazuo Umezu. At the same time, the dark tone and adult themes still give it that extra sting ascending it above and beyond the formula that can make shōnen predictable. Ultimately, the title touches on a few different genres in an impressive manner, although it may not appeal to fans of more outlandish, shocking horror.

Visually, the style of Sean Lam is slightly mixed in its overall delivery. Particularly, static scenes can come across as overly simplistic and rather emotionless – showing room for growth in the artists aesthetic. However, where Lam’s art really pops is in action and horror-focused visuals. The action moves swiftly and is easy to follow, showing an understanding of kinetic movement and notably an impressive use of depth from textures. Conversely, Lam’s visions of wide mouthed vampires and blood flow is perfectly macabre – his female vampiress a hypnotic mix of terror and beauty. As such, the art only stumbles in a few panels, yet excels where essential for engagement.

Presentation wise, the release is a worthy addition to any comic or manga collection. The format is slightly smaller than the familiar manga print, but the quality of the release more than makes up for this. Notably, the print is of high quality of good materials and the cover has a lovely gold sheen that spells out the book’s title. Furthermore, the text layout (following familiar manga format) and sound effects are layered out smartly and with a complimentary flow. Readers even get a few color pages to lead off into the story, which is always appreciated. Admittedly, considering I was unsure of the quality of the release as my first graphic novel from Singapore, I was immensely impressed with how immaculate the art was presented.

There is not much out there like Geungsi (hard to draw comparison to other notable titles), which may also be represented by the lack of recognition in Singapore comics – cut to me furiously noting a bunch of creators to explore after this title. However, the series is perfectly poised, and deserved, to bring further recognition to the region – particularly for fans of horror manga. Bloody fun, Sean Lam’s Guengsi’s will make you squeal and scream in all the right ways – don’t miss out.

 

If you are interested in checking out this title for yourself, you can do so here.

GuengSi cover art

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