Mardock Scramble Vol. 1 (Manga)
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: August 2011
Price: $10.99
Creator(s): Tow Ubukata and Yoshitoki Oima
Format: 208 pgs., b&w; Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-9354-2953-1
Age Rating: 16+
ICv2 Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Teenage prostitute Run Balot is taken off the street by a man named Shell Septinous who lovingly takes care of her--until for no apparent reason he has her brutally murdered.  Private investigator Dr. Easter uses the experimental process Mardock Scramble 09 to resurrect her as a powerful cyborg and gives her the chance to bring her killer to justice.

Rune is a compelling protagonist, a profoundly damaged character, both emotionally and physically, who's been completely traumatized by her experiences.  You don't often get a series where the lead announces "I want to be dead" and really means it.  Luckily she has a chipper life coach like Oeufcoque ("Oeuf Coque means "soft boiled egg" in French), a shape changer who's default form is a talking mouse.  He's a nice inversion of the standard cute manga mascot character.

The series also has an interesting setting in Mardock City, one of those strangely nonspecific places with no real world analog that's fifteen minutes in the future yet looks a lot like now.  That "otherness" extends all the way to the characters names which can be a little distancing; both Shell Septinous and Rune Balot sound like they were created with an online random name generator.

Mardock Scramble has an intriguing premise and strong characters and manages to put a new spin on some well-worn material.  Solidly written and well drawn, it's a series that should appeal to it's intended audience of older teens.

--Steve Bennett: Writer and retail services consultant.