Detroit Metal City Vol. 1

By Kiminori Wakasugi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

This may sound strange, but comics like Detroit Metal City are, I think, an argument for why a collected edition is not always better. Don’t get me wrong, I like this first volume of heavy metal silliness. But this is definitely an example how when it comes to just from a pure reading standpoint, I wish I’d been reading it as a serialized comic every week.

Soichi Negishi loves pop music, especially from Sweden. His favorite movie is Amelie. He’s a soft-spoken, sweet guy. Or at least, by day. At night, he puts on his makeup and becomes Krauser II, the lead singer for the death metal band Detroit Metal City. Even as Detroit Metal City (or DMC) becomes more and more popular, though, can Soichi continue to juggle his double life?

Reading the first chapter of Detroit Metal City, I laughed a lot at this deliberately over-the-top extravaganza of in-your-face metal. The lyrics to their songs are a parody of death metal, nothing but profanity and mentions of hell, with occasional diversions of just how you’re going to do things to people while in hell. And then, of course, we get the innocent Soichi who meekly moves through life and wishes that he could end up with a girlfriend. It’s a classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde pairing in many ways. So as you see Soichi go on a date, or try to hide his job from his parents, or appear on live television, Soichi’s attempts to try and keep these different halves of his personality grow more and more futile. It’s silly, it’s fun, it’s easy to enjoy.

That said, though, the one failing of Detroit Metal City is that when reading it in a collected form, the stories can start to get a little repetitive. There isn’t quite enough variation from one piece to the next, with the end result being that you’re actually better off reading one chapter a week. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that if there wasn’t the collected edition we probably wouldn’t see any of Detroit Metal City in English. But I think you’re doing the product a favor by reading it piece by piece, because each new chapter will end up feeling a little fresher and more entertaining. Once I started taking breaks between chapters, all of the fun of Detroit Metal City came rushing back.

Wakasugi’s art is surprisingly clean and almost cute for a book about a death metal group. As strange as it may sound, Wakasugi draws his characters with such clean, soft lines that every now and then the members of DMC actually look sort of sweet. Of course, that’s usually right before they start simulating having sex with someone while on stage, or screaming more profanities. Still, it’s not the sort of art you might have expected. It does make me think more and more that it’s the quieter side of Soichi that is the "real" personality; it certainly matches much more with his life than with Krauser II’s debauchery.

Detroit Metal City Vol. 1 is a fun book, but it’s best read in short doses. That way, you can get the full metaltastic impact from each story. Wakasugi’s got a good sense of humor, and it’s fun to take a plunge into his over-the-top metal parody. And hey, any book which includes free temporary tattoos in the back gets an automatic bonus point from me. Detroit Metal City definitely brings in the noise.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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