Top Speed Vol. 1
Tian Ren never cared much for racing. In fact, he hates it. The high-speed sport took the life of his father, and he's never forgiven it nor his dad for costing him so much.
However, life has a funny way of forcing a person into a situation that requires one to do something undesirable, and this seems to happen more often in comics than anywhere else.
Thus, our story begins when an unlucky thief carjacks Tian's taxi, forcing the young driver to aid him in evading the police. Tian's distaste for driving does not diminish his incredible instinctual talents behind the wheel, and he shows his criminal passenger exactly how fast he's able to move his machine.
Tian races around the city, tossing his mean-spirited fare around like a sack of potatoes, and then unceremoniously dumps the poor sod off at the local police station, where he's able to promptly throw up prior to getting arrested.
Perhaps this event would've gone by relatively unnoticed, but as Tian's luck would have it, his unexpected path to the station was along the same road that the greatest street racers in the city compete against one another.
When one attracts the attention of the four kings of racing, it's hard to simply fade away, and soon enough, Tian finds himself doing that which he swore he'd never do - street racing. This is the tale of Tian's search for "top speed", as the writers call it, and so far, it's rather engaging.
Wai Kit Leung's artwork is amazing. From the line art, to the full color pages, to computer enhanced motion effects, this is one of the prettiest series out there. Cars are rendered with loving detail, from the grills to the treads. Racing scenes convey the impression of speed quite well for a collection of static images, mixing realistic scenes with some incredible stunts that would kill most drivers. The character designs are attractive as well, with some unique hairstyles and clothing choices thrown in to spice things up even more.
Visually, it's hard to top this.
The translation is good, although the writing strays dangerously close to corniness. At times, it feels as if the author is taking this a bit too seriously, but that isn't to say this series is without humor. It just leans more toward melodrama than most other titles out there.
Extras are nil, but this almost 200 page full color book is only $14.95, so I still feel that it's a good value for the money. I'd like to know more about the creators of the book and perhaps the actual setting (is it a real place, or completely fabricated?) for the story, but that information can come in later volumes.
For the time being, this is the book for those of you who love comics and street racing, but weren't able to get into the visual style of Initial D. I love the series, but I'll admit that the character designs aren't as aesthetically pleasing as they could've been. So here's a racing series that looks great, and so far, it handles well. We'll just have to see if it's in for the long haul.