May 9, 2012
Meet a few pages from a few different books.
Bibliography is a manga-style webcomic by Cody Shaw that has been running since 2008, concerning a young boy named Ben Hewitt who, in what could be considered typical fashion for many anime series, gets swept up by random misfortune into an unfamiliar and dangerous world.
The premise of the comic is fairly simple. There are various mystical codices which a person can form a contract with to gain special powers with certain accompanying drawbacks. For example the All-Seeing Codex grants enhanced sight at the cost of your natural sight and the Sanguine Codex turns people into vampires, with there being over a hundred different codices known. People who make these pacts are called “Pages” and whilst their abilities make them stand out quite readily, the everyday person is unlikely to be able to, for whatever reason, notice that they happen to have a pair of funny-shaped eyes floating around them for example. Ben is a recent exception, as his first encounter with a Page resulted in his “awakening”, what could be best be called an “oh yeah, duh!” moment from which he is no longer blissfully unaware of the Pages surrounding him in everyday life.
So enters our unfortunate protagonist Ben, who is rescued from a rogue All-Seeing Page by a Lunar Page (aka a werewolf) named Eve and, now awakened, quite literally cannot unsee the world of Pages and joins in the quest to capture the rogue Page that attacked him, signing on for a more permanent basis afterwards as a “Librarian”, a powerful pseudo-scientific individual.
The series makes numerous references to pop culture and manga stereotypes and such and overall maintains a fairly light atmosphere until it needs to actually get serious. Meanwhile the artwork, though initially quite varied and sketchy (likely owing to early experimentation in the medium), quickly reaches a fairly proficient level of manga-imitation (though by no means should that be mistaken as being straight-up plaigarism) that has steadily progressed and improved over the 4 years and 15 chapters the comic has been active.
Writing-wise, I kinda want to say the series isn’t very special. The writing certainly isn’t bad, I’d even venture to call it pretty good, but it’s not fantastic and I think I wouldn’t be too far off to say it’s roughly on par with most webcomics at the moment rather than standing out. The characters are all written consistently and jokes are pretty clever and appropriate, and the entire Page/Codex concept seems pretty well fleshed out, but really there isn’t much that makes Bibliography excel above many other manga-style comics, so combined with its oft-repeated art style there really isn’t much to make it distinct in its genre.
That said, the story is still pretty draped in mystery at the moment and characters are only just beginning to really open up about themselves and their motivations. Some might question the speed of plot developed given that it’s 4 years in already, but I think things are generally handled with proper timing and care and, hey, if you met someone on the street in a rough situation I would understand if you waited until you got to know them to tell them your life story.
Overall, I’d say give it a chance. It might not have the staying power of more unique or faster-paced webcomics but Bibliography has interesting characters and a fleshed-out, if somewhat foggy, world to explore.