REVIEW: ‘Solo Leveling,’ Comic Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Solo-Leveling Volume 1

Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? Solo Leveling, a web novel by author Chugong, sees its hero start as the lowest of the low. Through utilizing tropes and plot devices commonly seen in the isekai genre, Solo Leveling quickly became a hit online. It wasn’t long before Solo Leveling saw a manhwa adaptation by Dubu (Redice Studios). Solo Leveling currently sits at the top of MyAnimeList’s highest-rated manhwa list, so it was only a matter of time before it would make its way to English audiences with a physical release.

Solo Leveling Volume 1 is published in English by Yen Press, illustrated by Dubu (Redice Studios), with an original story by Chugong. The English release features translation by Hye Young Im, rewriting by J. Torres, and lettering by Abigail Blackman. The series takes place in a world where a portal known as “the Gate” appears in Seoul and connects the real world with one of magic and monsters. When it appeared, some humans were granted superhuman powers and became known as “Hunters.” The Hunters began delving into the Gate each week, defeating monsters before they can emerge into our world.

Jinwoo Sung is a young Hunter that couldn’t be worse at his job. Known by his colleagues as “The Weakest Hunter,” Sung only returns to the Gate each week to provide for his sister and mother. Once a seemingly easy raid into the Gate goes wrong, however, Sung’s life is changed forever as he is granted the ability to rise above his means by “leveling up.”

Though the first volume of Solo Leveling doesn’t get too deep into the main narrative, it does a fantastic job of hooking readers in. The bulk of the volume, split between three chapters, focuses on Sung and a small group of Hunters desperately trying to survive a mission gone horribly wrong. This gives readers a generally good introduction to how the world of Solo Leveling works and does a fantastic job of setting up Sung as a character.

Though Sung might be one of the weakest Hunters to have ever lived, he clearly knows how to survive. This instinct gives him an advantage that many others might not have and makes him a likable protagonist to read.

Seeing as how Solo Leveling is a manhwa, its physical release is more akin to an American graphic novel than a volume of the manga. The volume features beautiful art, each page dripping with color. A lot of work clearly went into making Solo Leveling Volume 1 a fantastic product, as it feels much higher quality than most manga/graphic novel volumes I’ve owned.

Though the main plot of Solo Leveling is only just getting started within Volume 1, it remains to be seen if Chugong can capitalize on isekai tropes instead of heavily relying on them. I love a good isekai, but seeing the same plot points and tropes used over and over again gets old fast. Though Solo Leveling is setting itself up to be one of the better “my life is a video game” stories, we still need some time to see if it overcomes its genre with originality or leans too heavily into it.

By the time most readers come to the end of Solo Leveling Volume 1, they will no doubt be hooked. It does a fantastic job setting itself up for success. Though it still could fall into genre tropes over time, the first volume is worth a read for all fans of fantasy or isekai stories.

Solo Leveling Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.

 

Solo-Leveling Volume 1
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TL;DR

By the time most readers come to the end of Solo Leveling Volume 1, they will no doubt be hooked. It does a fantastic job setting itself up for success. Though it still could fall into genre tropes over time, the first volume is worth a read for all fans of fantasy or isekai stories.