Pullbox Reviews: The Mannamong, Volume 1- You don’t pick Tontorus… he picks you!

A long time ago, the world was full of manna… like, it literally rained down from the sky and was free for the taking. The downside is that people tend to take gifts for granted. Eventually, Mother Nature got tired of us abusing her gifts and the manna dried up. Mostly.

Not wanting to abandon humanity, Mother Nature created the Mannamong, invisible spirits tied to nature, to keep an eye on things. These spirits were intended to look after things, to make sure we were getting along okay but not to directly interfere. Just like people, not all of the Mannamong were happy to leave things as they were supposed to be. Tontorus was one of those, maybe not outright evil but definitely a spirit with a mischievous streak. When he burned Mother Nature’s favorite creation, her garden paradise, Tontorus was imprisoned for thousands of years… locked away where he couldn’t cause any more trouble.

Until he wasn’t…

Kali Teal is a little girl who’s been sick for a long while. Her mother, Vianne, has done everything she could think of to help her little girl, but nothing seemed to help Kali’s fever. Finally, one stormy night, Kali had a dream… at least, she thought it was a dream. In her sleep, she was visited by Gisenes, the daughter of Mother Nature and the top spirit of all the Mannamong. In the dream, Gisenes told Kali that the reason she’s been sick is that the rebellious Tontorus had escaped from his prison and was using her to stay hidden. Until Kali can find out how to separate herself from Tontorus, her life will be a little more complicated.

The Mannamong is a fairy tale, a children’s story spawned from Native American (?) myth and the mind of Michael Adam Lengyel. New to the world of self-published comics, Lengyel has done the improbable by crafting a story that’s geared toward a younger audience without making it unreadable for us old folks. His writing style is perfectly suited to the job, staying relatively straight forward and accessible, while slipping in sly moments of humor and just enough maturity to keep adult readers involved.

Pulling double duty as the illustrator on his title, Lengyel’s style blends a bit of a manga style with Disney animation, particularly in the concept sketches included as bonus content (there’s a sketch of Kali wearing a “Tontorus” onesie that reminded me immediately of Lilo and Stitch). The characters of Kali and her mom Vianne- the focus through the majority of the book- are joined by an impressive and imaginative collection of creatures, the spirit Mannamong. The playful spirits come in a variety of forms that might make some readers want to pick up a pokeball and shout “I choose you!”- a pretty smart choice when looking to pull in young readers. The only area of the book where Michael accepted any help at all seems to be in the area of coloring… and even then he managed to keep things close to home. Kathy Lengyel does a great job of keeping to Michael’s animated style, giving his lines depth and complementing the work without ever making a page look too cluttered.

While not the sort of comic I’d generally pick up for a read, The Mannamong was a good time. It’s a pretty fast read- again, not a bad thing considering the book’s target audience- and never felt like a chore. For parents looking to introduce their youngsters to something outside of the mainstream realm of European fairy tales, this story of spritely spirits would make a good choice for reading time.

And if you happen to be a grownup who decides to give it a read without using their kids as a convenient excuse, who are we to judge?

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