Manga Review of Judith: Captive to Conqueror, Volume 2

Book of JudithJudith: Captive to Conqueror
Volume 2
Story by Gabrielle Gniewek
Art by Sean Lam
Published by Manga Hero

Why do we do what we do?  What is our motivation? And what matters more – what we do or what we think?  Or are both equally important?

I’m sorry life was not kinder to you.  But you could have chosen a different path.

Volume two of Judith: Captive to Conqueror addresses these questions (and provides an answer, partially given in the quote above), as our heroine, the young widow, Judith, acts on her plan to save the Israelites.  Based on the Book of Judith, part of Catholic and Orthodox Bibles (but not of Protestant Bibles or Jewish scripture), this two-part series continues to demonstrate Manga Hero’s commitment to creating entertaining and well-made OEL manga.

Volume one introduced the readers to Judith’s world and the small cast of characters whose actions would lead to the survival or destruction of a nation.  Led by Holofernes, the Assyrian army is pressing on Jerusalem and is laying siege to the town of Bethulia.  The people are wont to surrender, but Judith has faith that God will deliver His people; even further, she is steadfast in her desire to bravely challenge Holofernes.

Judith, as molded by writer Gabrielle Gniewek and artist Sean Lam, is an amazing character – beautiful and strong, her plan evokes that of Esther, her presence that of Deborah, and her cunning that of Jael.  She’s an amalgam of the great heroines of the Old Testament, and as such, she makes for that rare manga heroine is feminine, but powerful.

Meanwhile, Holofernes, the antagonist, remains a compelling character.  In my review of volume one, I mentioned that he was the series’ best character.  This volumes continues to reveal his playboy tendencies, but more than that, goes in depth about Holofernes’ difficult backstory.  As such, he becomes a character who is multifaceted and not just another villain.

Flashbacks to Holofernes’ past (and that of other characters) is an effective storytelling tool in this volume.  The climax of the story happens fairly quickly, but flashbacks and dreams intertwine with the real present to create suspense, as does the repetitiveness of the days leading up the day of reckoning.

This volume is the best work I’ve read from Manga Hero.  The tale on which it is based is short, but the manga expands on it without ever seeming to meander into filler.  The characterization in the volume is excellent and the storytelling structure, at least for a manga, is complex.  Gabrielle Gniewek has accomplished something here that is surprising – she’s create a manga that isn’t just good for OEL manga or for a Christian-influenced work; she’s create a terrific manga.  Period.

Rating: A-


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