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Ennead Manhwa Volume 1 Review

Synopsis:

Ennead Manhwa Volume 1 Review

The Ennead are Egypt’s nine most powerful gods, brothers and sisters and children all. One day, jealous of his brother, Seth, god of the desert and war, murdered Osiris, god of life, and cut him into nine pieces. Osiris’ wife Isis, goddess of magic, put his body back together long enough for them to have a child, Horus, but Osiris had spent too long in the land of the dead and couldn’t remain. Isis hid herself and Horus until years later, when Horus returned to seek revenge for his father. With Seth’s deeds coming to light at last, Ma’at holds a trial before all the gods of the Ennead, but there are nuances to Seth’s actions that no one but Seth and Osiris are aware of.

Ennead is lettered by Karis Page.

Review:

Although it isn’t fair to say that Egyptian mythology gets no exposure in pop culture, it certainly doesn’t have the same recognizability as Greco-Roman or Norse mythologies regarding ancient cultures. Authors like Pauline Gedge and Danielle S. LeBlanc have novels set in Egypt’s ancient past, while Stardust Crusaders and , among others, use their mythology on the anime front. (And let’s not forget the long-running shōjo manga .) Korean manhwa creator Mojito stands to expand that list with Ennead, a full-color manhwa originally serialized on Webtoon that takes place during the mythic cycle that covers Horus and his parents, Isis and Osiris.

If you’re not familiar with the myth, that’s okay. Mojito seems to have created this first volume with that in mind, and one of the volume’s most striking elements is how “myth” portions of the tale are told versus “reality” sections. The former is drawn in near-stick figures that resemble hieroglyphics and Ancient Egyptian literary works. They’re limited to black figures on a background that shades through sepias, and it feels more like reading icons than anything more traditional in the comic format. Meanwhile, parts of the volume set in the story’s present-day are fully drawn, with speech and text bubbles as opposed to lines of narration, and although the colors are muted, we still get a full range. Equally interesting is the way that Mojito draws the gods themselves. As most people know, Egyptian images of the gods give them animal heads on human bodies, and it’s clear that the artist doesn’t want to veer too far from that. Thus, many are given animal-head hats with long brims that conceal their human faces unless we look up at them. Most of the time, it looks like Seth has a jackal-like head (usually just referred to as a “Seth animal”) on a human body, but when he needs to show more emotion, we get glimpses of his eyes and mouth. Osiris, meanwhile, retains the greenish skin of Ancient Egyptian art, which we can interpret as him being a zombie when he returns to the land of the living, which he cannot do for long.

This first volume is primarily set up. We get a lot of the base mythology associated with the Ennead of Heliopolis, such as who is married to whom and who their children are, or at least some of them; Seth and Nephthys are only mentioned as having Anubis where mythology gives them four children. (Hint: everyone is married to their sibling.) The myths are interspersed with Isis returning to Egypt with her son Horus in preparation for seeing Seth punished for his treachery; the confrontation and the beginning of the trial form the majority of that plot. Seth and Isis are the star players, which makes sense – Seth, in this book, killed Osiris out of jealousy, because he wanted Isis for himself. Although Isis slipped through his fingers, he still believed that he was successful in at least disposing of his brother, and his discovery that he was not stands to be the biggest shake-up going forward.

It feels fair to say that all the characters we spend a decent amount of time with are very caught up in their drama. Despite the touching trust Nephthys has in him, Seth is portrayed as being ruled by his passions and nearly mad with what he has done, while Isis is prone to histrionics. The two who feel the most ill-used by the story are Anubis, Seth’s son, and Horus; neither speaks very much and seems to follow the paths laid out for them. But there’s also a distinct sense that the Seth/Osiris/Isis story has much more to it than we’re being told. When Osiris shows up to give testimony about his murder, his interactions with Seth could be interpreted as something more than brotherly when the spotlight is off them. This could be me searching for the BL in this purported BL title, of course, and if it’s not Osiris and Seth, it could be Horus and Anubis. It’s too soon to tell if that’s important in the grand scheme of things, though, and quite frankly, this doesn’t need any romance to be fascinating.

The English translator had to pick and choose between some alternate spellings, so if you’re used to “Set” and “Bast,” seeing “Seth” and “Bastet” could be a little jarring at first. The same goes for the sun god; we’re used to seeing a masculine form, but there are Ancient Egyptian sun deities who can take on many forms. Mojito may have opted for a female Ra because Ra is a self-birthing god before giving birth to Shu and Tefnut, and we associate birth with the feminine. In any event, it feels like a lot of research was done before the story was put down on paper, and that’s a definite part of the volume’s appeal. It feels a little more obvious than in some other manhwa that this was originally published in vertical scrolling form; the way the panels are shaped and set on the page makes it clear. But it is still easy to read, which is what’s most important.

Ennead is undoubtedly a must-read if you’re interested in Ancient Egypt and its mythology, but it’s also just an interesting story in its own right. Not a ton happens in this book, but it’s still fascinating and different from everything else available in English. That makes it worth checking out, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops from here.

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