The Mighty Zodiac has a wonderfully cosmic and original premise — the death of a constellation leads to the fall of six stars from the skies and the freeing of the Rabbit Army from the moon. Or as it is put early on:
When the Blue Dragon died, he left the eastern skies vulnerable. Without another dragon to immediately take its place and ascend into the position of the Guardian of the East, six stars fell out of heaven . . . Darkness fell across the region like no one had seen before. The darkness drew out dark creatures with dark designs!
Soon it’s a race between the heroes (the anthropomorphized animals of the Mighty Zodiac) and the Rabbits to find the stars, the heroes so they may use the stars’ power to help create a new guardian and the Rabbits so they can destroy the stars and so stay free.
I loved the opening mythology (which is expanded slightly later on to mention the other three guardians: the phoenix, the turtle, the tiger), the idea of an arm of evil rabbits, and those opening images, which I thought wonderfully evocative and gorgeously drawn, as are several others throughout, such as a series of message lanterns floating off into the night sky. And the mix of Chinese and Japanese mythos and background is also an intriguing blend.
Soon after the opening few scenes though, I began to have issues. One is that the artwork seemed more than a little inconsistent. Some pages I found wonderfully drawn—informative, evocative, etc. Others though felt more cartoonish or a bit clunky. A word that could also be used at times to characterize the dialogue. But perhaps the biggest problem is that a zodiac cast means an ensemble of twelve, and it is tough to find the time in a 150 page graphic novel to give fully flesh out a dozen different characters. And I can’t say the writers succeeded here. Worse, because the characters are spread out geographically, we’re faced with short scenes and abrupt transitions so as to show us all of them in action. The brevity and abruptness make it even more difficult to characterize the heroes and rob those scenes of much of their potential power. Finally, the rabbit army, which looks so wonderfully dark and mysterious in their arrival, never really coalesces as a unique villain, and its leader eventually morphs into a generic quasi-unstoppable bad guy spouting generic dialogue in the midst of a generic battle scene.
The Might Zodiac might work better with a younger audience, though I still think the issue of too many characters would crop up. But for an older audience it just doesn’t feel like it meets the promise of its first few pages, which is too bad. Because if we could have slowed way down and spent more time with each of these characters, the potential was there I think for a truly unique story.