By Andrew Cosby (story), Michael Alan Nelson (Script), Ayhan Hayrula (artist), Andres Lozano (colorist)
The Story: This is a new 4-issue limited series by BOOM! Studios. We start in a Prussian army camp in 1870, where Toshiro Ono has traveled from Japan to retrieve a sword he made. As payment, he tells his story to the Prussian general who owns it. Ono’s story begins in his youth as an apprentice to his father, a Swordsmith. Ono learns his father’s craft, but neglects one small part of the honor of the elder Swordsmith. That flaw has terrible consequences for him as it sets him on a quest to re-balance his life and retrieve all the swords he made for less honorable men.
What’s Good: This is a fine piece of historical fiction. Historical fiction is not done well often, but I really like the setting choices of Prussia and Japan. They’re underused settings, so even though they are historical, to the reader they seem alien and real. Moreover, they’ve found an effective character in Ono, one who is justifiably motivated to atone for his mistakes. He is compelling and we understand his quest for the balance that he refused to learn from his father.
Also, the colors throughout the book are forceful. The Prussian army camp is grounded in browns and grays and muddy tones. The youthful views of Japan are warmed by orange, except for the blue and sterile gray tones around the telling of the core of his hubris. The scene of his confrontation with the villain are set in red. These coloring choices are not realistic, but stylistic, and they are effective at communicating each moment’s mood.
What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, this very compelling story and script didn’t get the art to really meet the book’s potential. This was for three reasons. Firstly, I felt that Hayrula’s art had some proportion problems. Sometimes the body parts didn’t seem to be properly sized, like the Prussian general’s legs as he emerged from his tent. I felt the same thing looking at the grave of his father, which seemed tilted. Secondly, there is a stiffness to the poses, such as when the general passes Ono a glass of water. The general has already been established as a warm, confident character, but his body language here erases the good will, warmth and humor he’d been showing until now. Thirdly, the shadowing is also a bit heavy. Both the Prussian general and Toshiro Ono in different panels appear to have no left eyes at all, when in fact, both do and the apparent lighting we see in the rest of the panels don’t seem to be so poor that shadows should completely blot out one eye each.
Conclusion: Great idea for a story and well-written, although the art doesn’t meet the same standard. Worth a try. I’ll take a look at the next one.