Manhwa Review: Aron’s Absurd Armada Vol. #1

An oft-used archetype in popular literature are pirates. Pirate stories are so numerous nowadays, you can find all sorts of buccaneers, ranging from romantic to sly to sinister, and now joining the ranks of Captain Hook and One Piece’s Luffy is the idiot pirate Aron!

Back Cover Blurb

On a whim, Aron Cornwall decides he wants to live a pirate’s life of thrills, sailing on the high seas in search of distant lands and buried treasure. And when you’re the son of a duke, you generally get what you want. Accompanied by his reluctant manservant, Robin, Aron scrounges up a crew – including a cook who cannot cook, a transvestite assassin, and a boy (girl?) genius – and sets off on the craziest pirate adventure you’ve ever seen!

The RevieW

If you’re looking for an introductory manhwa (Korean graphic novel) for someone used to Western comic strips, consider Aron’s Absurd Armada. Buccaneers on the high seas and European-style royalty in castles comprise the characters and settings, and although story arcs last several pages, they’re presented in comic strip-sized bites.

The format is similar to the Japanese 4-koma with four panels read top to bottom, but Armada’s format is slightly wider. Occasionally, Kim divides panels into smaller sections to squeeze in more details. Each strip also includes a side illustration based on the main punchline. Some Korean cultural references are made, but they are explained with footnotes. In addition to the strips, a few arcs in full-page format are interspersed through the book. The entire manhwa is printed in color on glossy stock, and except for smudges on a couple pages, the print quality generally does justice to Armada’s elaborate period costumes.

The title is Aron’s Absurd Armada, but while the main character is Aron and he is absurd, he doesn’t really have an armada. Instead, as the back cover declares, Aron and company are pirates. But it would be more accurate to say Aron is a wannabe pirate with a crew of misfits compelled to follow him.

Most of the comedy stems from the fact that Aron has no business being a pirate. The son of a duke, Aron is a spoiled imbecile with zero fighting ability and no sense of responsibility. Wealthy as he is, he has no need for nor interest in obtaining booty. The one time his crew goes on a treasure hunt, he doesn’t bother to join them. He simply wants to be known as a pirate because he’s bored and thinks they’re cool.

Obviously, such an idiot can’t survive on his own. Thus we have Robin, Aron’s bodyguard. Beautiful and vain, Robin’s narcissism is only matched by his love for money. Between the sizable allowance received from Aron’s overindulgent mother and Robin’s unsurpassed sword skills, they keep the rest of the crew in line. That crew, by the way, consists of a girl whom everyone thinks is a gay boy; a transvestite assassin hairdresser; a brawny chef who can’t cook; and two flunkies who serve as the straight men for this ridiculous cast.

With this hodgepodge of characters, the plot is less action and adventure and more about the mental damage they inflict upon one another. In one arc, Aron’s ship has a run-in with the Marines, but it’s not so much a naval battle as it is about Aron putting the Marines’ lieutenant Luther, who just happens to be Aron’s childhood pal, into a pinch. By the way, this Luther is also the illegitimate son of an admiral; gets no respect from his subordinates; endures a peculiar bullying from his half-brother; and is madly in love with his half-niece who happens to be his ensign. That’s the type of craziness Armada has in store for readers.

I should mention that this title is rated older teen, partly because of violence and language, but also because the characters continually rip on one another about cross-dressing, sexual orientation, and BL (boys love).

Regarding the artwork, don’t let the front cover fool you. Kim does use deformed characters when the occasion warrants, but for the most part, illustrations are clean shojo-style artwork with a predominantly attractive cast. And although Yen Press presents this book as Volume 1 of Armada, it actually contains Volumes 1 and 2 of the manhwa as released in Korea and provides the character introduction pages used in both.

In Summary

Beware Aron the pirate! Actually, the ones that really need to look out are Aron’s misfit crewmates as their inept leader gets into one scrape after another. If you want to see all the havoc that one self-centered duke can cause country, family, and friends by charging onto the high seas with a gender bending crew, give Armada a try. And while the $18.99 cover price might seem a bit steep, the book is printed in full color and actually contains Volumes 1 and 2 of the original Korean releases.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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