Daomu (“Tomb Robber”) is the graphic novel adaptation of one of China’s biggest selling novel series. Part Indiana Jones, Part Tomb Raider, and part Stephen King horror, the transition from series to illustrations is smooth though a bit wordy. Lavish illustrations add rather than detract to this moody atmospheric story, completing a full plot arc.
Story: Sean is half American, half Chinese living in the seedier side of Detroit. He has a missing father and an attitude problem – life in his early 20s is not looking good. When his father shows up suddenly and then is suddenly murdered by a demonic looking entity, Sean is drawn back to China to discover his father’s legacy: a leader of the Daomu tomb raider clan to which Sean is now the successor. Taken under the wing of his Uncle Tsai, Sean will have to prove himself if he is to succeed to his father’s wealth and legacy. That means descending to the depth of the Earth and the horrors that await in long forgotten but powerful warlord tombs. But there are other organizations out to find the same secrets – some financial and other supernatural – that lay buried. Sean is about to find out that there is so much more to the world, and himself, then he could ever have dreamed. And most of it isn’t pleasant.
Daomu is impressive – beautiful and expansive drawings using a murky and half formed dream feel to convey the mysticism of the plot. The colors are beautiful, mostly monochromatic in aquas and reds and far better than the cover would lead one to believe. If for the art alone, this is well worth the price of admission.
The story is smooth and honestly not as shallow as I’ve come to expect from many manhua. This is a true Western style of graphic novel adaptation and not a manga-type serialization with monsters of the week. Clearly, with the strength of opularity of the origin novels, attention was lavished on this adaptation. The writing is crisp, translation excellent, and the story flows smoothly.
Daomu isn’t perfect – it stayed perhaps a bit too close to the novels in that there are far too many text boxes and this is very word heavy, as if the translators/writers couldn’t bear to leave out anything from the novel. I wold have enjoyed this far more if the pictures were allowed to tell the story more. As well, the use of the third person in the text boxes began to sound a bit silly and pompous after awhile (e.g., “The warrior waits..” “The Warrior recedes.”).
While I really liked Sean and most of the other characters, the female roles here are almost a joke – a rocket scientist super model with a huge chest popping out of her usually unzipped skintight wetsuit or tank top was a bit much. She’s pretty much the only female in the cast and Lara Croft she isn’t. Nor is she believable or even remotely interesting as a love interest for Sean.
So while not a perfect adaptation or story, this is still leagues above most graphic novels. The horror is heavy and graphic but the story really is imaginative and different enough from Western stories to be intriguing.
Reviewed from an ARC provided by the publisher.