By: Owen Wiseman (script), Nam Kim (Pencils), Matthew Dalton (inks), Sakti Yuwono (colors), Michael Benaroya and Owen Wiseman (creators)
The Story: Katashi is fostered to the Sanjo clan, a family of honor and power. Gakushi, one of the Sanjo clan’s chief aides, stages a coup and wipes out all of the Sanjo, except for two, a brother and a sister, and Katashi, who is the one that will have to protect his foster siblings.
What’s Good: I love a good period piece, and while this is by no means a perfectly historical work, the flavor of the samurai code, the villainy and treachery of those who do not subscribe to are clear. Wiseman hints at the different burdens and fates the central characters are carrying, which leaves some room for this series to expand. The fighting and assassination, of which there is no small amount, keeps the pace of events quick. Betrayal is something the reader must work to keep up with as layers of deception are exposed and Wiseman kept me on my toes.
The artwork, especially the color palette, did the job of capturing what I imagined rural 17th century Japan to look like. And while I bought the main action and scenery, where I really responded to the visuals was in the larger fight scene with the troops in red armor. The contrasts in color and the level of detail in the armor and surroundings was a treat.
What’s Not So Good: For some reason, this book didn’t hook me. I was thrust into a quick-moving set of events with the betrayal of the noble rulers, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to Katashi. I wonder if it is because I felt I’d seen him before, that sort of standard foster-child-with-a-destiny-who-just-happens-to-be-the-best-and-most-noble-fighter-too. It didn’t feel fresh to me. The chemistry with the foster sister also left me a bit cold, as if I’d seen the fostered gallant ready to protect the princess of the family he has been adopted into many times before. Moreover, none of the motivations of the characters were made clear, especially the villain, who was the chief architect of all the killing. What did he want? Power? That’s plausible, but a bit one-dimensional and expected. I really wanted to be surprised by interesting creative choices or cultural detail, but I got more of a sense that this was the Japanese version of Camelot that was never real and has been recycled many times. I wasn’t feeling the authenticity of something new.
Conclusion: I don’t think I’m coming back for issue #2. That being said, if you want to check the book out and disagree with me, go right ahead. Issue #1 is priced at a cool dollar, so that you can see for yourself for less than a bag of chips.
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