I didn’t review the first volume of this series because I was planning on saving it for a potential podcast about taking established characters and transplanting them into all-new settings. (See also: DC’s Elseworlds comics.) That hasn’t happened yet, but I might get around to it later this year. Anyway, the first volume of “Campus Apocalypse” turned out to be a satisfyingly guilty pleasure along the lines of Dark Horse’s other “Evangelion” title, “The Shinji Ikari Raising Project.” Putting Shinji, Rei, Asuka and Kaworu into what is essentially a stock shonen “supernatural action” plot (think “Bleach” or another Jump title that has kids going around fighting supernatural entities) is certainly an approach that won’t win any awards, but their established personalities enlivened the material while the action was executed with zest and it featured some appealing character-centric art from mangaka Mingming. It’s also a substantially different approach from the “Raising Project” that even though the two are both set in high school, neither is really cutting in on the other’s style.
With vol. 2, my optimism for this series wanes a bit. Things pick up a bit towards the end when the subplot about the killer MMO finally starts gaining traction, but most of it is just a slow plod through a morass of foreshadowing and backstory to get to that point. Now this is just my opinion, but the advantage to using familiar characters in a story like this is that you’ve already got their personalities and character traits. That way you can just cut to the action and not have to waste time on pointless scenes that merely re-establish what we already know about these people. Guess which approach Mingming takes here.
It’s not that any of these scenes are awful, and I’m sure there’s a substantial contingent of “Eva” fans that are going to LOVE seeing Kaworu spend the night at Shinji’s again. However, outside of the opening chapter’s nativity play shenanigans and Rei’s affection for her horse’s head costume there’s very little zest to them. Regrettably, the overriding plot thread throughout the majority of the volume is that of Shinji coming to grips with this new world that he has been thrust into and then deciding whether or not he wants to be a part of it. (Non-spoiler warning: He does.) Carl Horn does what he can to enliven the proceedings with his adaptation, but even though he does have some winning moments, such as what the angel Gabriel would text the Virgin Mary, you get the feeling he has less room to work with than he does on the “Raising Project” and the end results are therefore not quite as entertaining.
I wouldn’t say that this volume is a dealbreaker in terms of stopping me from following the series. The recent solicitations from Dark Horse have indicated that this is only going to be four volumes in total, so I’m hoping that things will pick up in the next volume. At least, I’m hoping that they do. The last thing that I’d want to read this year is a third volume so bad that it causes me to skip the concluding one entirely.