Written by Jean-Francois Di Giorgio | Art by Frederic Genet | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
As I have done with both previous issues of Samurai, I read this through twice. Once, to read the actual story, the second time just to look at the visuals. Not only is Genet’s artwork amazing just to look at, but his composition and storytelling abilities elevate it to an elite level. It feels at times as though I am watching a film, rather than reading static panels on a page. I would without hesitation recommend this book for the artwork alone, but luckily so far Di Giorgio has matched the level of the art with excellent scripts, with a slow burning main story, a sub-plot now feeding into the main story, and a cast of very well drawn out and developed characters.
Last issue saw our samurai hero, Takeo, drawn into becoming the champion of the small village on the Isle of No Name being terrorised by local Yakuza warlord Nobunaga. They needed a champion to fight Nobunaga’s master samurai, Shobei, and although Takeo was mainly there to locate his missing brother, his code of honour led him to defend them. This issue starts as the single combat between the men begins, and although as a reader I was expecting a long battle between two great swordsmen, Takeo loses the first of three rounds quickly . Di Giorgio gives us a realistic battle between two samurai, all focus and sudden strikes, rather than a more crowd pleasing, but unrealistic, extended sword fight.
The next dozen pages are given over to various character interactions – Takeo and Shobei’s mutual respect, Shobei’s disdain for Nobunaga and his lowly Yakuza, Takeo’s ongoing quest for information about his and his brothers past, Nobunaga’s pure nastiness to everyone but especially women, and the simmering discontent in both the village and Nobunaga’s retinue. It’s all deftly done, and adds a nice substance, colour and depth to this world we are currently invested in. The second round of combat sees Takeo take the day, beating Shobei narrowly through an unarmed combat technique known to few, though he suspects Shobei may have thrown the fight. Hugely entertaining.
Things are left on a cliffhanger of sorts for next issue; Nobunaga has been poisoned and is slowly dying, and Shobei and Takeo will fight the deciding duel with real swords. A nicely balanced story this time right, action and character development given equal time. Supremely confident Takeo now doubts himself, up against a superior foe; Master samurai Shobei wants to win, but knows he fights for the wrong side, and does so purely for duty. The Yakuza would turn on themselves as quickly as they would the villagers given half a chance, and the villagers have put massive pressure and unrealistic expectations on Takeo’s shoulders.
Themes and questions everywhere.
Di Giorgio and Genet have again constructed an amazing book to both read and look at. Both are equally adept at using emotion, action, background and foreground detail, character development, and just delivering a fine story. If I had to criticise anything it would be to slightly tighten up the dialogue, perhaps to linger less on certain scenes which are at times a little unnecessary, and to have made Nobunaga slightly less obviously Mr. Really Really Bad Guy. In fact, thinking about it the main characters are quite generic in many ways, so it does show what a very good writer and artist can do with their material.
Do yourself a favour and pick this book up, you won’t regret it.
Samurai #3 is out now from Titan Comics