Rising To The Top: Should You Be Reading ‘Tower Of God’?
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Webtoons are a hugely popular digital comics format in Korea that are increasingly finding an audience around the world, and one of the most popular examples of the form is Tower of God, a compelling and ingeniously told tale of one young hero overcoming impossible obstacles to reach his destiny.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young boy named Twenty-Fifth Bam (literally translated as Twenty-Fifth Night, a reference to when he was born) has spent his whole life underground beneath a mysterious tower, with only his best friend and tutor Rachel for company. But one day, Rachel vanishes into the tower above, because she wants to see the stars at any cost.
Distraught, Bam enters the tower after her, and learns from a gatekeeper at the bottom of the tower that he'll find answers at the top. In order to get there, he has to pass tests on every floor, which usually means fighting monsters.
Receiving a legendary weapon known as "the Black March" from Yuri, one of the tower's princesses, Bam easily passes the first test, and finds allies in crocodile-man Rak Wraithriser and slumming nobleman Khun as he faces all the challenges that each floor of the tower has to offer.
WHO'S IT BY?
Tower of God is written and drawn by Lee Jong-hui under the pseudonym Slave In Utero. A visual arts major before his mandatory conscription into the South Korean army, Lee began drawing cartoons on the advice of one of his superiors.
Having drawn about ten books' worth of practice material, Lee started to conceptualize the story and setting of Tower of God. The series began weekly serialization in 2010, and is currently in the middle of its second "season."
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
The sheer number of panels per chapter must be daunting from a creative perspective, but Lee never shows any signs of artistic fatigue. His composition and skill at drawing action scenes are remarkable. Also noteworthy is the seamless blend of digital coloring --- particularly a palette that draws comparisons to the anime adaptation of Blue Exorcist --- and CGI elements like holograms with 2D characters and backgrounds. It's a striking, visually appealing blend that sweeps the reader up.
But more than that is the story. There's a lot more going on than just Bam's simple mission and, as the series goes on and the true nature of the Tower becomes clear, it's positively riveting.
Tower of God is one of the most popular examples of a type of comic that gets very little attention in the West; webtoons. Laid out in long, vertically oriented chapters, webtoons are a Korean manwha format for digital comics optimized for consumption on tablets and smartphones. The first generation of webtoons emerged around 2003, and the industry now attracts an audience of more than 10 million readers using online portals like Daum and Naver in Korea.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Regular readers of manga like Blue Exorcist, Seraph of the End, HunterXHunter, and World Trigger. Anyone who misses the many characters and fights of Bleach. Fans of fantasy webcomics like Sluggy Freelance, Cucumber Quest, and The Order of The Stick.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Tower of God is serialized in English on Line Webtoon, available on the App Store and Google Play. New chapters go live every Monday.