Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Undefined Gamer: "Bionicle #1: Rise of the Toa Nuva" Graphic Novel Review

I think I may have read this. I am becoming UG. Help me.

      There are four ways to get into the Bionicle storyline: the
novella-length books, the video games, the movies, or the graphic
novels. The best route is the novella-length books. They contain the
most complete storyline and are aimed at an older audience (which are
continued in online serials at
      However, many people are too lazy to try the best route. Some people
started with the graphic novels (published by DC). Seeing as I no
longer have my Bionicle novels (published by scholastic, the biggest
mistake of my life), I'll have to settle for the graphic novel today.
      Originally, I didn't start reading the comics until late in the 2005
storyline. This was because DC was notorious for making reprints of
the 2000-2004 issues hard to get. As compensation, in 2008, the peak*
of Bionicle's popularity, Papercutz republished volumes of the comic.
I am reviewing the first said volume.
      Spanning 8 comics, The Rise of the Toa Nuva chronicles the 2000-2002
storyline. Condensed, of course. Usually, DC would make an average of
5 comics per year (it was a bi-monthly thing, with a two month
vacation in between seasons). 2000-2001, being Bionicle's first year,
had significantly less issues that the rest. 2002 really was the start
of the whole bi-monthly process.
      Publication-wise, the very start of the Bionicle story. Sit tight
and I'll explain the plot in the simplest terms.
      Six canisters wash up on different parts of the island Mata Nui's
shore. Holding within them are six Toa, who have been lying dormant in
said canisters for 1000 years. Part machine and part organic matter,
the Toa regrow their rotted organic matter and are forced to rebuild
their bodies. Yes, I imagine that this is very painful.
      Each toa has one weapon, and one mask. They each have an elemental
power, in addition to their mask powers. There is six villages on the
island, one for each of them. Nearby, the Turaga of the island (Turaga
are Toa after they give up their powers, like the Fantastic Four did
when fighting Galactus), have hidden 5 masks each in places only a
person as powerful as a Toa could reach. When they are done finding
the masks, each Toa should have a complete set of 6 masks each (they
wear them all at once; the masks merge and they can swap masks at
      However, all is not well in Mata Nui. Makuta Teridax, whom is forced
to act through Rahi Beasts (Rahi is their word for mindless animals),
which he controlls through onfected masks (basically mind-control
devices), due to a forced agreement he made with Turaga Vakama 1000
years before now in the canon.
      Makuta would fail (the comic skips the toa getting all the masks.),
and the Toa would each get a set of 6 masks. When a full set was
achieved, their masks turned gold, and niw united, the Toa declared
their group the Toa Mata.
      All is not well, though. Strange creatures called Bohrok (mechanical
creatures controlled by fleshy mask-like Krana) are destroying the
Matoran villages (Matoran are powerless villagers, very short) that
the Turaga rule. However, they never attack anyone unless provoked,
they just want to destroy the landscape.
      The last 5 issues are centered around the Bohrok War between the Toa
Mata and Matoran villagers and the Bohrok swarm. The Mata put on
impressive displays of elemental powers, while even the Matoran help
out. One Matoran named Nuparu, for example, takes the bodies of broken
Bohrok and construct war machines named Boxors. Everyone has a part in
the fight, while the Toa serve as Superhero/Generals.
      Toa Lewa even gets a fleshy Krana implanted onto his face (his mask
was confiscated). When a Krana ends up on your face instead of inside
a Bohrok, the Krana enslaves you. Onua eventually does save Lewa, but
as a result much suspision was put onto the Toa of Air.
      Eventually, the Toa find where the hell all these Bohrok came from.
For thousands of years, they had been dormant underground in twisting,
deceptive chambers. Controlled by two monstrous Queens, Cahdok and
Gahdok (they control them telepathically; being giant, hideous
monsters Cahdok and Gahdok cannot speak), whom awakened the Bohrok at
the bidding of supposedly Makuta.
      The Toa, utilizing some Exo-Toa suits they found laying around in the
Bohrok nest, fight a losing battle against the queens. The Queens, the
Toa find that their elemental powers only strengthen the Queens. They
ditch the Exo-Toa suites and combine their powers as one.
      When you cross streams of power, unlike in Ghostbusters, you create
a crystalline prison called a Toa Seal (see Bionicle 2: Legends of
Metru Nui for referance). Imprisoning the Queens, the Bohrok stop
dead, for the seal blocked the Queens' telepathic communication to the
swarm (Bohrok themselves are mindless, like individual worker ants).
      However, this causes part of the Hive to collapse, plunging the Toa
into silver liquid called energized protodermis. If you're a diehard
fan of Bionicle, you'd know you don't want to mess with this stuff.
It works like this: if you take a plunge
in energized protodermus, one of two things could happen. If you are
fated to change, it will mutate you (for better or for worse). If you
are not fated to change, it will immediately turn into an acid bath,
and burn you alive. By luck, all six Toa where destined to change.
      Improving them, the Toa's masks received upgrades as did their
weapons and armor. The novel ends with the Toa running away from the
now-collapsing Bohrok hive.
      Confused? I thought so. The comics generally skip over a lot of
story present in the books** (lots of things happen in-between issues,
lots of pauses). Sometimes crucial bits are left out (like some
actually pretty impressive bits where the Toa literally fight evil
versions of themselves). Many newbies who have read this might be
unfamiliar with how the Bionicle Universe works, and the comic does a
poor job at ushering in new readers. The fact that some terms, such as
Tohunga (the original word for Matoran, though it was later changed
due to copyright issues with the Maori language), are left as first
published. You can't do that.
      The art is great, Randy Elliott, Carlos D'Anda, and Richard Bennett do
an exemplatory job at portraying the characters, sticking true to the
sets while capturing a very fluid, robotic style (in short, not going
overboard on the "Bio" elements like in the movie). The writing is
fine, I just wish they gave Greg Farshety more pages.
      The quality of the comics, considering DC in the early 2000s, is
very high. The print quality is great.
      Rise of the Toa Nuva, like the rest of the graphic novels, are
really meant to be enjoyed by people who have already read the books
and are perfectly capable in filling in the many holes that the
graphic novels leave. Although there are plotholes, and Farshety
could've desperately used more pages, Rise of the Toa Nuva remains a
nostalgic relic any Bionicle fan would enjoy.
Bionicle #1: Rise of the Toa Nuva the Graphic Novel gets 3 masks out of 6
*Right... Bionicles are popular... Sure...
** Oh, that's why it's confusing. Not because it's a ridiculous complex story for a toy line made for 10-year old too cool for regular Legos? But, I digress...

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