Of all the series SuBLime is publishing right now, Ryo Suzuri’s MADK is easily the most distinct. Why, you ask? Because it’s unabashedly for monster f***ers. MADK isn’t like one of those paranormal romances where someone might fall for a wolfman but almost all the emphasis is on the “man.” No, this manga takes its premise to extremes with gory viscera and exploration of Hell that will likely be too much for some readers but right on the money for others. As far as I’m concerned it kicked off with a great start thanks to its impressive artwork and well-developed characters. With Vol. 2 out this week, does the series continue to please?
For the uninitiated, here’s a plot summary courtesy of SuBLime:
Makoto has long been ostracized because of his odd hobbies and a sexual kink others see as disgusting. One day on a whim, he tries a demon-summoning ritual and succeeds in summoning an archduke from hell named J. Makoto sells his soul to him and begins a new life in hell as a monster. Living among so many unique demons helps Makoto to grow into his new role. But he finds he can’t ignore the feelings he’s harboring for the demon who brought him to hell, the beautiful but very twisted Archduke J!
Vol. 2 opens with a bit of a timeskip; three years have now passed since Makoto first entered Hell and found himself entrenched in J’s terrifying yet captivating world. He’s spent that time working as a prostitute at the demon Datensho’s brothel, but now the time has come for him to step out on his own and expand his capabilities while seeking information about the mysterious demon he once summoned.
Makoto’s character growth is central to this manga’s success, and it’s very well-written. An event takes place at the beginning of this volume that propels Makoto toward his journey of self-development and information gathering, and without spoilers I’ll just say it adds new, illuminating details to his backstory. Makoto’s emotions throughout are a potent mix of rage, shame, misery, and pride, and he’s a fascinating figure to follow as an anchor through the manga’s interpretation of Hell. The theme of power is especially prevalent and it impacts how Makoto conducts his relationships with various demons as well as how his present actions contrast with what we know of his time back on Earth.
As great as Makoto is, the series’ is made all the more enjoyable by its strong supporting cast. In this volume we meet K, the older brother of Archduke J. It’s our first real dive into the concept of familial bonds between demons, and one that’s quite twisted as befitting of the manga’s tone. K is both like and unlike his brother: both are haughty and selfish, but K lacks J’s charm. On the other hand he seems much more grounded and human, a fact that sickens Makoto rather than endears him. This question of humanity is central to the volume, and to questions of Makoto’s desires and purpose. The various other supporting characters such as Datensho and Fjord all bring out different sides of Makoto’s personality, fleshing him out even as he moves farther away from his own days spent as flesh and blood.
Artistically, Suzuri’s work remains very impressive. The character designs continue to charm and incorporate elements from various Earthly life forms (i.e. birds and rafflesia flowers) while twisting and perverting them into monstrosity. There’s also a wide variety in the degrees of personhood present in the designs, as befitting the question of what it means for demons to retain any sense of humanity. The linework throughout is thin and airy, which feels appropriate given Hell’s status as an otherworldly realm not tethered to the sensibilities and realities of life on Earth. The shading and inking are also very nice to look at and effectively mark major dramatic shifts. The only real cons are some occasional brief clarity issues or demons that aren’t as interestingly rendered as others.
All in all, MADK Vol. 2 not only meets the high bar raised by its predecessor but surpasses it. With sharp art encapsulating both beauty and monstrosity as well as a protagonist who’s interesting both in his humanity and ruthlessness, this volume is a pleasure to read from start to end. Here’s looking forward to seeing what transpires in Hell the next time around.
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