By: Jai Nitz (writer), Colton Worley (pencils and inks), Carlos Lopez (colors), Joseph Rybandt (editor)

The Story: The Hellfire Club: Kato is disguised as the Prince of Siam to penetrate the Hellfire Club in an investigation. While there, the butler is killed. Kato investigates it all in his own inimitable style, despite interruptions.

What’s Good: On the art, what really jumped out at me was Worley’s more innovative layouts. Right on page two, the dead butler’s hand intrudes on other panels. On page four, the action spills out again. And on page six, the reactions of everyone to a quick and one-sided fight are fanned out like the feathers on a peacock. Coming as it did between pages of more standard layouts, these shifts definitely hit between the eyes in a good way. Worley was equally strong on action and picking dramatic and powerful camera angles. On the draftsmanship, I obviously continue to enjoy the Kato origins art team.

Writing-wise, Nitz didn’t give us any Kato-esque metaphorical or symbolic musings this issue, but that may have been because those are more suited to times when Kato is alone and being ninja-like. Instead, Nitz treats us to a bit of cultural tourism (or voyeurism, or a sense of coming home, depending on what your thing is) through the inside of a rich swinger and BDSM club of the 1940s where somebody is up to something (no, not that way…well, ok, some people are up to….nevermind). The character sketches of the inhabitants of the Hellfire Club are done with extreme economy: a few words to describe each one, but enough words to give a strong picture. This is the mark of a writer who knows how to focus in on memorable images that define characters for the reader. The best compliment I can give Nitz on these great micro-character studies is that he makes it look easy.

What’s Not So Good: The only point I’ll make, which is subtle, is that I didn’t feel that this setting and this story was one that was uniquely suited to Kato. Until this issue, everything about the series had celebrated, reinforced or held a mirror up to Kato and the essence of being a ninja and an Asian in 1940s US. That made each story both internal and external. This issue, while intriguing in a cozy mystery murder way, didn’t give me that sense of double meaning and of the gradual reconciliation of the hero with himself that has been so prominent in the rest of the series.

Conclusion: Nitz, Worley and Lopez take us on a trip into some of the weirder parts of 1940s USA in a cozy murder mystery plot. Definitely buy it if you’re following Kato Origins. If you’re wanting to get in on this series, I’d say wait for this arc to be done and then climb aboard.

Grade: B

-DS Arsenault

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