Free Runners, vol.1, vol 1
$9.99, b/w, 192 pages, Available Now!
Story by Bill Strauss with Art by Jennyson Rosero
Rated for Older Teens, 16+
Reviewed by Billy Aguiar
I first really heard of “parkour” or “free running” in a issue of Warren Ellis’s Global Frequency, though is has shown up more recently in movies such as the most recent Casino Royale and The Bourne Ultimatum, and it has much higher profile in Europe in general. It is hard to exactly pin down what it is, but it is basically the art and sport of moving through the city in new ways. Rather than taking the roads and sidewalks, you climb, leap and bounce across the urban landscape, using whatever is available, such as trees, fences, rooftops and so on to get from point A to point B. Check out YouTube to see what kind of things are possible — at any one time there seems to be about a dozen clips of kids pulling off jaw-dropping moves. Parkour was created in the suburbs of Paris during the late 90s. As a newly defined activity, there is a lot of uncertainty about what free running is, is it the same thing as parkour or different, are there specific moves, what is the philosophy behind it, and so on. Despite its emphasis on movement, it is philosophically more akin to a martial art that focuses on mental states.
Free Runners, except for a few bits here and there, seems to serve more as a primer to free running, the moves and the philosophy of it, than an actual story. The art is great and I think I see some interesting character bits mixed in there, but free running/parkour seems to take up more of the book and we seem to know more about it than we do the characters by the end of the volume. Long stretches of the book are taken over by the artistic depiction of free running, but without story elements to give those movements meaning, they lack the punch and the incredulity that one gets when you see it with live people, because then you can’t believe that people can do it without a stunt team off-camera. That sort of reaction is just not there when it is drawn, because of course you can believe a character can make those sort of moves — after all, people have been believing that a man can fly in comics for generations! Steep, the main character, is learning about parkour/free running and we learn along with him. Steep has a couple of sub-plots, such as a quasi-mystical ability of free runners to escape time itself (and the portrayal was so muddled that I just didn’t get it) and the manhunt of his brother for a crime he didn’t commit, but neither one really seems to pay off or even gets more than touched on in this volume. I wanted to like this, and it is a good action piece, but even by manga standards this is a light read.
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Vol 1. ISBN: 1-93316-419-0