CROQUIS POP is the story of Da-Il Han, a teenaged boy who wants more than anything in the world to draw comics, despite not having any artistic talent or knowing the first thing about how comics are made. The reason? On the day his mother died, when he was 12 years old, someone gave him a comic book and despite it being the worst day of his life, the story still made him laugh. Now, his dream is to be able to do the same for someone else in need.
In pursuit of his goal, Da-Il gets hired as an assistant to the famous, fictional, manhwaga Ho Go, who is moving into a new studio and, in the course of all the craziness moving his studio and other employees across the country entails, and assailed by Da-Il's high energy and enthusiasm, forgets to ask if Da-Il can draw until after his being hired is a done deal. Go's other assistants are agog and want him fired immediately, but Go is genuinely impressed by Da-Il's desire to learn, and reason for why, and keeps him on - entrusting his senior-most assistant (who already hates Da-Il by this point) with teaching the newest assistant everything there is to know about making comics.
This starts off as another comic about making comics, which are quite prevalent in manga and manhwa, but from there the story takes a big, fun leap - alone in his room in the large, western-style house Ho Go has turned into his new studio, Da-Il meets a ghost. Not just any ghost, Mu-Huk is the Croquer Da-Il's Zone Keeper. Da-Il is understandably confused and long story short, a Croquer is someone who has the power to bring their art to life, infused with the life-force of grudges (which for this story's purpose are dissatisfied ghosts; not necessarily angry, just unable to find rest for various reasons), which Da-Il and Mu-Huk then act out the stories of (inside Da-Il's "Dead Zone") and, if all goes as intended, putting those spirits to rest.
A tall order for a kid who can barely draw stick-figures.
To add an additional twist, the new comic Ho Go announces they'll all be working on... is CROQUIS POP, starring none other than Da-Il, a kid who can't draw, who learns he has drawing-related super-powers.
Whaaaat? How does Ho Go even know about croquers, much less Da-Il being one?
And so it goes for four volumes, getting more involved as Da-Il increases his drawing skills, learns about his powers and learns that there are far more croquers in the world than he'd have thought - not all of them good people. It's pretty fun.
And then the comic jumps a big old shark. Starting in volume five, everything about the comic changes. Character designs, premise, even the meaning of the word "croquer". The fact that volume five is prefaced by an apology from the creators stating that they are sorry for changing everything and hope you at least give the revised comic a chance is a very bad sign. The comic itself isn't bad, actually - but it's definitely not the CROQUIS POP I started reading.
With the half-assed explanation of entering another croquer's Dead Zone, Da-Il and Chan-Bee, his second Zone Keeper introduced after Mu-Huk, get completely new character designs (Chan-Bee's is actually an improvement) and enter a world where croquer simply means "having a super-power" and virtually everyone in history of note was a croquer (including Babe Ruth, Billy the Kid, Isaac Newton, several prominent figures from China's Three Kingdoms period and Arthur Pendragon, among others). Da-Il gets caught up in a sort of croquer kumate, organized by Snow White, and winds up fighting various historical and literary figures for two volumes before the comic abruptly, and ridiculously badly, ends.
It was obvious this comic wasn't doing well, hence the reboot, and it was equally obvious that the reboot both did worse and that the creators knew it would. The apology for the change in the series in the preface to volume 5 and the TWO apologies for how bad the comic itself is (in the creators' own words) in both a preface to volume six and an afterward in the same is one of the craziest things I've ever seen in publishing. The series was obviously cancelled by the original Korean publisher and I've noticed that Korean publishers actually allow creators to end series, rather than abruptly cancel them and leaving them unfinished as often happens in Western (and sometimes Japanese) comics. That's nice, but they clearly didn't give Seo and Ko enough notice to come up with an ending that wasn't awful.
I don't like spoilers generally, but I don't recommend you read this book, anyway, so I'm gonna tell you, cuz it's seriously a shitty ending.
In the eight-page final chapter (other chapters are anywhere from 30 to 50 pages), in the middle of a big, climactic battle, one of the villains from early in the series suddenly wakes up, in Ho Go's studio, being yelled at by the senior assistant. He has dreamed the entirety of CROQUIS POP while trying to think up ideas for his own comic book. That's it. It's not even Da-Il, which would have made more sense since he was the hero of the story. Seriously. What crap.
And most of the last page is taken up by an apology by Seo saying he knows the comic wasn't very good, he was very proud of it at the outset and ashamed by how it turned out in the end and he promised if he was allowed to do another comic, he'd do better next time. I mean... come on. That's just sad.
In summary, the first half of the series is a fun read, with some poignant moments dealing with various ghosts' stories, as well as some of the secondary characters introduced later on. JinHo Ko's art is also very good in this series. It's older than his other work I've read and the style is somewhat different, but it's also more consistent, and even after the style change in volume 5, it's never less than great.
And if, after reading this, you still want to read CROQUIS POP, I'd strongly advise stopping at volume 4.