Reading Club is advertised as the first Korean horror comic for girls. That line alone enticed me enough to pick it up over a decade ago from Udon Entertainment. Many of the main characters are female, including an amazing coroner that gives Abbey from NCIS a run for her money. Fans of the Whispering Corridors series will find this similar in tone, focusing on crushes and girls’ issues as a backdrop to the terror. While the school involved is co-ed, both genders are represented and an emphasis is placed on the female roles, with the males typically offering support.

A 9th grade girl, Eun-sae, goes to help clean up the school’s abandoned library, hoping to win over her crush, Kyung-do. While there, she finds an old tome. Upon simply opening the book, she feels scared, gets injured, and starts to see things. However, Eun-sae fears the harm coming to Kyung-do, who has been reading the book, and wants to find a way to protect him. Will she be able to discover the source of the curse in time?

As a rule, the art is polished, working nicely for the story and as a sample of what Korean manhwa looked like back then. A few scenes could do with some redrawing, but it’s not so bad that it distracted me from the story. The first several pages are in color and have impeccable detail. Eeriness and gore are included without being over the top, suitably matching the tone and pacing.

Reading Club is rated 16+ due to suicide and obsession, resulting primarily from the curse. Characters die in interesting ways, often choosing to kill themselves to try in vain to escape the curse. The gore is kept pretty reasonable, with no copious fountains of blood in the first volume.

Cho Ju-Hee and Suh Yun-Young do an excellent job working the haunted book’s presence into multiple timelines and writing as if it is the starring character. I appreciated the past glimpses into the book’s history and its effects, giving us more than one set of deaths and intrigue.

The human characters aren’t given enough room in one volume to be dynamic, but carry the plot forward efficiently. While we learn about Kyung-do’s tragic past, we still don’t know much about the female protagonist, Eun-sae. I hope in future volumes she gains more depth, rather than staying simply a schoolgirl with a crush. The characters generally take a backseat to the situations they get wrapped up in, but that is often the case in most horror films and novels.

What could have been an extremely simple story is well setup and more intricate than initially expected. Mystery abounds, urging the reader to find clues and try to figure out the origin and solution of the curse. Fans of Asian horror will appreciate the staples present, feeling much like Ringu and other films. A detective storyline, mysterious deaths, and other aspects are very familiar, but mixed in with new conspiracies in a way that keeps it fresh.

The first volume sets up several plots and raises even more questions, but ends on a cliffhanger with a dark-haired ghost. The series is continued in two more volumes to complete the trilogy, leaving the first volume unsatisfying on its own but a perfect introduction to the world of Reading Club.

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