This review of StarCraft: Ghost Academy Volume 1 is of the spoiler-free variety.
StarCraft: Ghost Academy is an odd beast. It’s the fifth manga from Tokyopop set in the StarCraft universe, but it’s the first time one of the products contained a single story. The StarCraft: Frontline series is built like Warcraft: Legends, a collection of shorts. However, Ghost Academy isn’t a start and a finish, it’s the beginning of a trilogy surrounding Nova, a high-powered telepath.
That’s what makes it even more odd. Nova was to be the main character in the scrapped StarCraft: Ghost console game — A title that was so close to being done that Blizzard began marketing it with a tie-in novel, StarCraft Ghost: Nova. The prequel book showcased Nova’s early struggles with wielding psionic powers and a troubled young life before becoming a powerful Ghost. Keith R.A. DeCandido envisioned the original prequel novel, and returns to fill in the gap in his novel thanks to the three-part manga series focusing on Nova’s intense training.
Now that you know how we got here, hit the jump to find out if the story is worth reading.
November Anabelle Terra, Nova’s given name, is, to put it politely, a selfish bitch. She refuses to help her teammates in the academy, going so far as to abandon her teammates in a bid for personal glory. She fails. Over and over, she tries to do things alone, charging ahead, distracting teammates or ignoring the orders of her superior officer. DeCandido makes us hate Nova, the main character of the story. In doing so, we begin to feel for her teammates. The hell they are put through by this overzealous, over skilled, yet undereducated prodigy is enough to cause any teep (short for telepath) to blow a gasket.
We know why Nova is there. Actually, only StarCraft fans, those dedicated enough to read the novel, really know why she is there. Ghost Academy is fan service. Someone new to the universe would be missing quite a bit. This is why Nova is portrayed so poorly early on. The technique gives DeCandido the room he needs to create stories for Nova’s four team members, while simultaneously introducing us to the premise of the series, Nova’s ascension as a top operative.
The front half of the manga is loaded with action, mostly training missions. DeCandido dives into the characters between these scenarios, often one-by-one. Unfortunately, none of them have remarkable personalities. From your token drug-addled teen to your prima donna privileged ladies man, the characters are boring, uninspired archetypes. Perhaps DeCandido went to my high school, because that’s what the stars reminded me of. The Very Special Blossom ending to Volume 1 didn’t shake the idea, either. Furthermore, the progression is structured oddly, almost like a StarCraft campaign mission. A taste of story sets the scene, a flurry of action follows, then you get a zest of resolution before the next mole needs to be whacked.
Fernando Furukawa didn’t take many risks with the sought-after intellectual property, either. His penciling is typical manga. The males have 6-pack stomachs – even the “nerd” character – and the females sport torpedoes where mammary glands are usually found. Furthermore, all the cadets wear skin-tight uniforms that highlight what’s going on in that psionic area. No wonder why everyone has big eyes.
DeCandido and Furukawa serve up a mediocre entry for the opening act of Ghost Academy. Manga fans should head for higher grounds. The genre just has too much quality to waste your time on StarCraft: Ghost Academy. The piece is a poor starting ground for perspective manga readers and newcomers to StarCraft alike. Frontlines, for instance, is a more enjoyable in every way. I can’t really recommend the title to StarCraft fans, either. The presentation is very disjointed, with heavy action early, leading to story telling and character introspection in the back half. Neither act contains anything notable. At this point, anyone interested in Nova should grab the novel over Ghost Academy.
StarCraft: Ghost Academy Volume 2 is scheduled for release in early August. I hope it can win me back. Tokyopop will be releasing volume 1 of Knaak’s Dragons of Outlands series and Warcraft: Mage on June 1.
Writer’s note: Now that everything is settled here at LoreHound, reviews for this column will became as timely as they used to be.