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Martin & John: Volume 1    by Hee Jung Park Amazon.com order for
Martin & John
by Hee Jung Park
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2008 (2008)
Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Hee Jung Park truly is a global manga-ka. While Park may be from Korea, his work resonates across languages. Martin & John is a good example of this. Volume 1 tells three different stories of three different Martins (actually four) and three different Johns.

The first story takes place in a post-apocalyptic planet where a man, John, and his human-looking pet, Martin, hunt for sustenance. This short story shows the love between a man and his dog. The next is a desolate tale of unrequited love and suicide. John meets his former-lover's wife, Mari, to discuss Martin's suicide. Martin was a player, who, even though he loved John, refused to sleep with him and eventually left him to marry Mari. After his death, John meets with Mari, hoping to find answers.

The last entry in volume 1 (which continues into volume 2), is a little happier. In it, playboy John is suddenly saddled with five-year-old Martin (the adopted son of his father's second wife) when his father and stepmother die in a rafting accident. At first, John wants nothing to do with Martin, but after a while the boy starts to grow on him, even if Martin does have a tendency to ruin John's relationships. A second Martin in this story John's best friend - is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that John's ward has the same name as him. The story comes to a head when Martin's birth mother comes forward, wanting her son back after John has grown attached to him.

Park has an amazing talent for capturing complex and true emotions with few words and sparse but artistic pictures. The way he captures and touches on these feelings easily traverses cultures. Helping to bring the emotions to the forefront in these stories, Park focuses less on the plot and more on (as the title suggests) his characters Martin and John. In Martin & John, Hee Jung Park has created stories and characters that are so emotionally-charged they are not easily forgotten. This ability sets Park far above many manga-kas, and makes his manwhas a must-read.

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