Bride of the Water God, vol. 1
Story and Art by Mi-Kyung Yun
Translation by Heejeong Haas
Edited and adapted by Philip Simon
Lettering by Steve Dutro
Dark Horse, 2007
Original Korean edition: Seoul Cultural Publishers, 2006
Soah is being sacrificed for the greater good. Her village, facing ruin due to a long drought, has decided to sacrifice a beautiful girl to the water god Habaek to appease his anger and bring rain. Soah is the unlucky girl chosen to be the bride of the water god, but at the end of the ritual presenting her to the god she doesn’t find death but rescue. She wakes in Habaek’s kingdom, Suguk, where she discovers her bridegroom, rumored to be a monster, is actually a child. But even as Soah begins to adjust to her new life, there are hints of mysteries. No one will tell Soah what really happened to Habaek’s earlier wives–after all, Soah is not the first girl to have been sacrificed in exchange for rain–and Habaek is keeping one very big secret from his new bride.
Vol. 1 of Bride of the Water God is very much a series opener: setup, setup, and more setup. It only takes Yun a few pages to get Soah from her village to Habaek’s kingdom, but the rest of the volume is mostly filled with character introductions and a few teasing flashbacks to an an angsty backstory. Fortunately, the arrival of a new character on the scene in the volume’s final pages has the potential to shake things up a bit.
At any rate, I’m willing to be patient with the slow-moving story, because the art is extravagantly beautiful. The fantasy setting gives Yun an excuse for very sumptuous visuals; the drawings of Habaek’s palace and the surrounding gardens do a lot to set the tone of the series. And Yun’s character designs are equally striking. While Yun’s style is in line with what you might find in other sunjeong manhwa or in shojo manga, her attention to detail, especially in the costuming, makes the art a real treat. And Yun obviously knows her target audience well, as the very attractive male lead has already had multiple opportunities to appear in a state of deshabille, often while dripping wet. It’s shameless eye candy, but I for one am not complaining.
It’s hard to give a strong recommendation for this series at this point because the plot is only just beginning to creak into motion. But those who read sequential art primarily for the art would probably enjoy flipping through this series, and others with a fondness for folklore-based stories could do a lot worse than to wait and see where this particular twist on old tales is heading.