Reading Pile: The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past GN
I curse myself for getting rid of my old Nintendo Power magazines because they had a lot of awesome stuff worth keeping, and that included the original publication of this comic back in 1992. I don't think I ever had the entire story though, so it's nice to finally have the whole work in one nice format.
Story and art were done by Shotaro Ishinomori, the creator of Cyborg 009, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and so much more. His style and sense of action are a great fit for the work, giving it a crisp sense of energy and action while offering a lot of high fantasy visuals that really give a great sense of tone and atmosphere to the world.
I've never been a huge Zelda player but I've always appreciated the franchise, and I think a lot of that is because of how much this comic stuck with me in the 29 years since its original publication. Plus toss in the Legend of Zelda cartoon as well as Link's appearances in Captain N: The Game Master and you can definitely say the Nintendo marketing machine was doing its job. So with that hodgepodge of media floating in my head, having a series with such great visuals like below really made an impact.
That being said though, 10 year old me wasn't paying too much attention to the plotting and it was already broken up for me as I was missing chapters. Reading it now, and well, it certainly feels like a brief summary of a video game.
The core story elements of the game were in place and that definitely offers a solid structure. Ishinomori added some extra characters and enhanced others, so there's plenty of entertaining dressing to the story. The thing is, a lot of the game is going from one quest to the next. To save Zelda you need the Master Sword, and to get the sword you need the Pendants of Virtue, and to get each pendant you have to vanquish blah blah blah. With only twelve chapters, Ishinomori doesn't waste anytime jumping from one quest to another.....
Like seriously, once Link is told he has to go somewhere, sometimes that somewhere just happens to be....there.
Plus, there's not much time invested in fleshing out the bad guys either. Generally they do the bad things because they are bad, and we are lucky to get any kind of hint of a backstory at all. Ganondorf's backstory is in his name, Ganondorf the Thief, and that's all our 10 year old brains needed to know at the time.
It's fine, really. It's silly, and the comical nature of some of the art helps to reinforce that tone. To offset the quick pacing and slapstick elements we get some truly utterly beautiful artwork along the way.
Plus we kinda get some proto-Junji Ito nightmare fuel here and there as well. Seriously, between the death moon,
the eyeball monsters,
and various other cosmic terrors, there's an interesting and subtle infusion of horror at play.
While the bulk of the storytelling is simplistic with a minimal amount of characterization, there's also a little bit of existential sadness plugged in throughout the book that feel a little out of place. It does give more gravity to the emotions of the characters and their experiences though, and leaves the entire adventure on a somber note that I appreciate.
I'm not sure how this would read to any Zelda fans who have a larger stake in the mythology of the series, but as a casual reader it was a very enjoyable return. Part of that was simply the fun of filling in the memory spots and the general nostalgia, but also just being able to experience Ishinomori's storytelling and to really appreciate his craftsmanship after all these years was great.
Viz did a really nice job with this edition, the 8.13 x 10.88 formatting and beautiful coloring really making the package pop. Plus it's only $19.99 retail for 196 pages, so you're getting a lot of content for your money. If you're looking for a fun all-ages fantasy story to pass on to a young reader I would definitely recommend this, and if you have very little exposure to the larger franchise like me you could do worse than starting here.