King of RPGs Volume 1
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: January 2010
Price: $10.99
Creator(s): Written by Jason Thompson; Artwork by Victor Hao
Format: 240 pgs.; B&W
ISBN: 978-0-345-51359-5
Age Rating: Teen+
ICv2 Rating: 2 Stars out of 5

Jason Thompson, a longtime writer and editor in the field of manga and anime, has now written a manga-format graphic novel, with art by Victor Hao.  King of RPGs takes several familiar concepts and turns them sideways. The result is an over-the-top comedy similar to Megatokyo.  The central character, Shesh Maccabee, after suffering from a serious internet game addiction while in high school, has finally entered college and hopes to move on with his life.  The problem is that he’s so good at roleplaying that he has what amounts to a multiple personality disorder.  Thinking that he is safe with non-Internet gaming, he gets convinced to try other games, and disaster ensues.  He loses himself and the characters take over.  This leads to a lot of humor, but unfortunately, also a lot of queasy moments as the humor goes too far.  He does a considerable amount of "real world" harm to people who get in the way, as does his nemesis, a fanatically anti-gaming young policewoman.

The difference between this and the similar mayhem in Megatokyo is that the world of that story is so surreal that the violence and damage become cartoony and harmless.  In King of RPGs the damage is done directly to relatively innocent individuals, whether due to one of Shesh’s characters stealing a car and its contents, or the policewoman directing a riot squad to open fire on a group of "vampires" in a game store.  Yes, the intent is humor, but it isn’t always funny.  The most consistent humor in the book is related to the gamemaster who keeps dragging Shesh back into gaming, because he loves how "good" Shesh is at roleplaying.

Victor Hao’s artwork is good, especially in sequences illustrating the games themselves, and may appeal to some manga readers.  For older teens and up, due to violence and other content issues.

--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.