King of Eden is a new horror manga written by Naoki Urusawa's frequent co-author Takashi Nagasaki. Nagasaki was the co-writer of Urusawa's most recent hit series, including Monster, 20th Century Boys, Master Keaton, Billy Bat, and Osamu Tezuka's reimagining's Astroboy storyline Pluto.
The series is actually another take on the zombie genre. It offers a mythical origin for the zombie virus that goes all the way back to Cain and Abel, then follows its mysterious Korean hero as he tracks the contagion across the globe to try to wipe it out. Amongst the factors at play are terrorist groups out to use the virus as a bioweapon and the WHO team trying to track the contagion, including the woman who was at school with the main character. The series has the flavour of a cross between Dan Brown and Tom Clancy thrillers, reflecting writer Nagasaki's taste for epic, globe-trotting conspiracy thrillers with sociopolitical dimensions. Yen Press is collecting two tankubon volumes into thick, 400-page omnibus volumes.
The visceral artwork by Korean artist SangCheol Lee under the pseudonym Ignito. King of Eden is an example of the collaboration between Korean and Japanese creative forces. In truth, there are more Korean artists now drawing manga for Japan than many people realise. There's a murky, dark, clammy feel to the art that creates an air of impending decay and doom through the comic.
The zombie apocalypse genre is one of the conflicting drives: on the one hand, there's the fatalism of humans acting badly that causes the world to end; on the other, there's a fantasy of power and competence where heroes can fight their way through to save the world. King of Eden leans towards the latter. It's like an Asian take on a Stephen King apocalypse narrative with a mysterious hero hunting the Big Bad behind the apocalypse, with a plucky heroine joining his mission. Nagasaki knows how to write a globe-trotting technothriller with a supernatural zombie horror flavour that keeps the reader's attention. The story slows down or gets boring. There's always another twist or wrinkle that pops up to keep the pace breathless and unpredictable. Someone will always burst in with a gun, or more zombies will pop up to initiate another action set piece. It's the type of pulp writing 101 that Nagasaki is an expert at by now. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but it's fun and has enough hooks to keep the reader coming back.