One of the best things to happen in comics in 2012 was the digital release of a bunch of titles by Shotaro Ishinomori
, the creator of Kikaider
, that Legend of Zelda
comic that ran in Nintendo Power
, and a bunch of other comics about monsters getting kicked right in the face. The one that drew my attention the most was the classic Kamen Rider
, and while our own Dylan Todd wrote about how great these comics are
, I thought anyone who was still not convinced might need to hear a little more to push them over the edge.
Besides, if I can't write about how awesome it was that time Kamen Rider drove his motorcycle right into the face of Spider Man (not that one)
, then what's the point of even having a website about comics?
For those of you who might not be familiar with Kamen Rider, here's the basic rundown: Takeshi Hongou is a brilliant biologist who is also a kickass motorcycle stunt rider, so naturally, he gets kidnapped by a sinister organization and turned into a super-powered cyborg, because that's what happens to guys like that in tokusatsu
stories. The organization in question is called Shocker
, and they've apparently made a habit of transforming people into horrifying creations in a vague but undoubtedly evil bid to take over the world.
Fortunately for Takeshi, an unexpected surge of electricity, a friendly scientist called Professor Midorikawa, a prototype super-motorcycle called the Cyclone and a set of new cyborg limbs that can straight up karate chop a guy so hard that his head explodes all add up to a pretty workable escape plan. Takeshi escapes and discovers that he has the ability to transform into Kamen Rider
, a masked superhero dedicated to foiling Shocker's plans no matter what twisted forms they take.
There are, of course, a few setbacks, most notably that Shocker sends the evil, four-armed Spider Man
-- who is both threat and
menace -- out to frame him for the murder of the Professor, which puts something of a strain on Takeshi's budding relationship with Midorikawa's daughter, Ruriko. And, you know, there's also the whole thing where he's a monstrous cyborg who wants to murder him.
Just for the record, here's how their first fight ends:
Please note that all of this happens in the first chapter
of Kamen Rider
Which brings us to today's selection, "Chapter Two: The Flying Vampire Bat Man
," which had my interest right from the title. Our story opens with an armless Spider Man begging his masters for a chance to avenge his defeat, to which they agree, sending him to be patched up for the rematch. In the meantime, though, they're going with Plan B, and the B stands for Bat Man. Who, it should be noted, lives in a room that looks like a set from The Prisoner
with a drawing of a bat on the door.
While all that's going down, Takeshi's pal Tachibana is trying to keep Ruriko safe from Shocker (and convince her of Takeshi's innocence) by keeping her more-or-less locked up at Takeshi's place. This seems like a pretty dubious way to earn someone's trust, but she agrees to stay there for a while as long as she can have a friend over. Unfortunately, the friend in question, Hiromi, becomes the Bat Man's first victim while she's on her way, and ends up going full-on Dracula at her earliest convenience:
You'd think this would be a pretty good place for Takeshi to bust in, save the day, and earn Rurkiko's trust by punching out her best friend, but that's not what happens. Instead, it's Tachibana who makes the save, clocking Hiromi upside the head with a kendo stick like it's ECW in '96 and driving her away.
Why? Because Takeshi's busy outside, dealing with the recently rebuilt Spider Man. And when I say "dealing with," I mean "driving a motorcycle directly into the face of."
It might be my favorite thing about this comic that Kamen Rider doesn't just run over Spider Man once
, he does it over and over again for about six pages. Hilarious. I could read an entire volume where it was just that, happening over and over again from different angles.
Alas, Bat Man does not agree to me, and swoops in to grab Kamen Rider and announce his presence in the story. He attempts to drop Kamen Rider to his death, but that only serves to recharge Kamen Rider's body through the turbine on his belt (of course
), giving him the ability to do even more awesome jump kicks than ever before. Thus, Bat Man is driven off, but he's not done yet.
See, as Takeshi discovers when he examines Hiromi's oddly withered corpse, the bite of Bat Man doesn't just turn you into a vampire...
...it also infects you with a sentient mind-control virus.
Shocker is into some serious s**t, y'all.
Takeshi decides to focus his efforts on developing a cure for the virus, so they send Ruriko back to her apartment. Those of you who have been paying attention for this whole time might realize the innate flaw in this plan -- you know, how Shocker has been trying to kill her for this entire time? -- and sure enough, she returns to her apartment to find that everyone in the entire building has been turned into a mind-controlled vampire virus zombie
Ruriko is bitten, and when she returns to Takeshi's house the next day with the promise of finally forgiving him for his role in her father's death, she bites him and
Tachibana for good measure. Takeshi does his best to hold them off, dosing them with his latest, untested batch of the cure, and then passing out because he hasn't slept in two days.
While he's asleep, Bat Man shows up, and what follows is an absolutely beautiful action sequence. That's one of the great things about reading this book digitally -- it's nice to have it on the iPad, sure, but being able to check it out on a desktop monitor and get a good look at these pages at a larger size shows the incredible detail and kineticism that Ishinomori's bringing to the story. Click this one to see a bigger version and you'll see what I mean:
Their battle mostly takes place in mid-air, which is awesome. I love me some speed lines, and Ishinomori has this incredible sense of motion in the fight scenes as they struggle with each other before dropping to the ground. During the fight, though, Bat Man manages to take a pretty sizable bite out of Takeshi's neck, infecting him with the virus -- you know, the sentient mind control vampire virus
-- which gives him what he thinks is the victory.
In addition to revealing his method of control, Bat Man also reveals that the cure to the virus is in the claws at the end of his wings, because at this point, sure, why not? Antiviral mutant cyborg bat claws make as much sense as anything else we've seen at this point, so sure, go for it.
As you might expect if you have ever read a story ever, Takeshi was just faking to learn how to cure the virus. He's definitely infected, but his own half-baked cure has slowed it down long enough to give him a fighting chance against Bat Man, so he jumps up, transforms to Kamen Rider, jumps his motorcycle over a cemetery gate, karate chops a groundskeeper to death (which seems a little excessive) and then sets about laying into Bat Man with a pretty savage beating.
And when I say "savage," I'm not kidding:
Not only does he rip Bat Man's wings off with his bare hands -- okay, gloved
hands -- he also stomps him right out of the sky. And then, just in case anyone missed that this is technically a (mutant sentient) vampire (cyborg virus) story, he stabs him to death with a crucifix
If you take nothing else away from this column, it should be the knowledge that Kamen Rider does not f**k around.