If I am being honest Samurai: The Isle With No Name is a comic book I had never heard of. It looked interesting, mostly due to the beautiful artwork and the fact there are samurais in it. I suppose I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.
The book is published by Titan Comics, a publisher I had been unaware of up until a few months ago. But Samurai #3 looked promising based on interior art alone. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I felt like beginning with issue number three would be ok when starting the series, since there wouldn’t be too much to catch up on. What I hadn’t realized is that “The Isle With No Name” is simply one of several storylines in the Samurai series. The number on the book was a tad misleading, since I am missing years of backstory for our main character, Takeo.
Here is what you need to know going into this series. The main character is Takeo; he is a Samurai who isn’t exactly too fond of killing. That would be great if he didn’t have a magic sword that could only be sheathed after blood has been spilled. He is currently in the process of looking for his brother which has brought him to the island which is the setting for the current series. On the island there is a tournament for swordsmen in which Takeo is participating in and this issue begins with Takeo dueling Shobei, an older swordsman,with wooden bokken swords.
While Takeo might be the main character in the overall series, this particular issue is mostly about Shobei. Shobei is reluctantly working for a gangster, who has come to the island to make some money. However, what we have learned in previous issues is that Shobei is not completely innocent himself. In fact, he has a violent history.
Despite Shobei being a man who has come from a world of violence, he appears to have a certain moral code as well as an aura of sadness about him. This moral code is showcased when we see him witness a number of immoral actions being committed by the gangster’s henchmen and when they ask him to participate, he refuses. The aura of sadness is highlighted in a scene where we witness Shobei mourning in a shrine.
Not only does writer Jean-François Di Giorgio showcase Shobei’s character, but he also looks at Takeo. Although Takeo is a younger swordsmen that does not mean he is lacking in wisdom. Takeo is able to reflect on his loss and strategize ways he might be able to win in his next match against Shobei. The success at which he does this will determine whether he goes home a loser or faces off against Shobei in a third and final round.
Art wise the comic is top notch and is drawn by Frédéric Genet. Stylistically it is hard to describe his work. I want to say that it is detailed but loose, yet that doesn’t make a lot of sense. There is plenty of detail in his work, but the world he creates doesn’t look hyper realistic like an Alex Ross or a Brian Bolland. Comparatively, I feel as if there is a touch of Moebius influence here, yet Moebius feels a little more cartoony than Genet. Whatever it is, I like it.
Plot wise the book just feels like it is just another samurai comic in the vain of Samurai Executioner or Lone Wolf and Cub. The book doesn’t really feel like it is covering fresh territory here, with maybe the exception of the magical sword, but that sword played no role in the plot of this issue.
The pacing of the book was alright and there were some intriguing elements that were hinted at for future issues. Such as the gangster being poisoned and whether Shobei threw his second match against Takeo. However, the dialogue was sort of clunky, but this could also be because it is being translated from French to English.
Writing wise I would say that Samurai #3 comes off as decent. The plot is familiar territory and can be found in other Samurai genre comics. The dialogue at times can be a tad clunky, but it could possibly be a problem with the translation and not the writer itself. As for the art, the book is great. Genet delivers with an intriguing style that isn’t completely easy to define.
- Artwork is fresh and intriguing to look at
- A good mixture of action and story development
- The antagonist Shobei is interesting
- Dialogue is clunky
- Readers may be unaware that this belongs to a much larger body of work
- Story seems generic