August 15, 2007
by: Serdar Yegulalp
The unstoppable delivery man of the wasteland throws himself headlong into trouble yet again!
Manhwa Description: Young Kong is entrusted with a delivery of great importance, and Banya schemes to free Mei from her captors. Instead of fighting fire with fire, Banya fights monsters with monsters!
The delivery men of the Gaya Desert Post Office have only one motto: "Fast. Precise. Secure." Banya, the craziest and craftiest of the bunch, will stop at nothing to get a job done. Known as the "Explosive Delivery Man" for his daring, dedication, and diligence, Banya promises, "There isn't a delivery I can't make!"
Whether it's transporting a rare artifact or reuniting a mother with her long-lost son, Banya will speed through war-torn deserts and mysterious forests, relying on flexibility, daring, and wits to complete his missions - no matter what the odds!
Content: (This section may contain spoilers.)
The current crop of reviews for The Bourne Ultimatum describe it as one big non-stop chase scene. That’s kind of how Banya: the Explosive Deliveryman plays out, too. Take our hero (Banya, the “Postman of the Wasteland”), give him a goal, send about six thousand bad guys after him, and watch him run, run, run until he either keels over or actually accomplishes what he set out to do. Back at the end of Volume 1 Banya was high-tailing it through the blighted desert that makes up a good chunk of his world, with a package under one arm and a cadre of death merchants nipping at his heels. Not the most original setup, to be sure, but Banya makes it work by simply putting its head down and charging forward through this premise at top speed.
Banya has three approaches to any given problem, used in this order: 1) run the heck away, 2) trick your enemies into feuding amongst themselves, and 3) kill ‘em yourself. All three get used here. That oversized kitchen knife hanging from his waist is there for a reason, and right in the first pages of this volume he puts it to good use—he blinds one of his pursuers with a smoke bomb, then severs the poor sap’s hamstring. (There’s more, but it happens out of frame.) When one of his own friends’ lives also happens to be on the line—in this case, his “sister” Mei—he has all the more reason to slice someone up. But on the whole, he’d either run faster than they can, or use another time-honored tactic you can employ when you’re bracketed by different varieties of enemies: Why kill them when you can get them to kill each other? Mei, too, now a prisoner of the same gang of goons after Banya’s package, improvises wildly to stall her captors … until Banya shows up and pulls off a diversion, and lands them both in possibly even bigger trouble.
The middle story in this volume, “Motherhood,” shows a slightly more serious side to both Banya and the series as a whole, and amazingly enough it works. After almost dying of heatstroke in the middle of the desert, Banya’s rescued by an old woman who pleads with him to deliver a medallion to her errant son, now member of a criminal gang in the wilderness. Banya bends the rules just this once to pull off the whole mission without pay, and discovers the son in question is not exactly living high off the hog as a bandit king—he’s essentially a scullery maid looking for any possible way to escape. In the end, Banya winds up delivering the woman’s son back to her, but under circumstances none of them could have foreseen. I cracked a big smile during this chapter at the way this story combined pathos and comedy—e.g., whenever Banya breaks down in tears, he has to palm it off as being about something wholly mundane, even if we know what he’s really crying about. (There’s a third story, but it almost immediately lapses over into the next volume, so I’ll save discussion of it for there.)
Click on the image for more examples of Banya's art, courtesy of Dark Horse Manhwa.
Banya: The Explosive Delivery Man © 2004 Kim Young-Oh. English edition (C) 2006 by Dark Horse Comic, Inc. All rights reserved.
Just another day at the office for deliveryman Banya...
Art: Strictly speaking, there are two art styles at work here, and curiously enough they co-exist and complement each other pretty well. Style A is the more polished and detailed “epic” style, like the material in the opening battle and on the cover. Style B is more goofy and gag-oriented, which Kim pulls out when it’s needed to nail home the punchline of a joke or provide the right touch of comedy when things hit the fan. Either way, he fills the pages with great things to look at, whether human, animal, vegetable or mineral.
Translation: Don’t be surprised if you open up the book from the “back” and are told to go around to the front again. Banya, like most Korean manhwa, was originally published in the Western left-to-right format, so there’s no need to get used to an alternate page layout and no need to diddle with the art to make it accessible to more conventional readers. Dark Horse’s translation (by Tresoon Kang and Derek Kirk Kim) is also hip and spot-on, with sound effects translated directly although unobtrusively on the page itself. The only bonus feature is a short note from the author, a heartfelt dedication to his own mother for her selfless sacrifices to him throughout her lifetime.
The Bottom Line: I’ve gotten a better feel for Banya now that I’ve seen a few of its complete story arcs—it zooms forward at all times like a racecar with a cinderblock on the gas pedal, and my biggest complaint is that the pacing is so breathless, each volume feels like it’s maybe half its actual length—and at $13 a volume for around 200 pags, that’s a tough pricetag to choke down. But it’s still a fun ride.