The past two issues have been prepping us for the main event: the duel between Shobei for the Nobunaga clan and Takeo, the peasants’ champion. It was inevitable from the first page, and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the story that has been so focused on bringing this fight together had also been dropping delicate and subtle hints throughout that now also begin to pay off, with characters who I initially saw as background coming to have significantly more import. This is a wonderful unfurling of many plot threads into a rich tapestry set against a beautiful backdrop.
Jean-Francois Di Giorgio has an incredibly deft touch with his storytelling. Reminiscent of a Dickensian novel, Di Giorgio paints a very broad picture and uses the plot to draw our focus to different patterns that we may have glanced over quickly at first but come into sharp definition at just the right moment. The characters are familiar to us, but the richness of the story and the intelligence behind it keep them from being stereotypical, except where comic relief is needed. Where at first I thought the island’s inhabitants were one organism, a hive that would move as a unit, there’s much more to everyone, including within Nobunaga’s own entourage. Plots are revealed and teased around the fight that were the impending major action up to this point and have now surprisingly become the backdrop for more intrigue and a subtler tale told all along.
Frederic Genet continues to stun with his incredible artwork. The aesthetic is subdued and peaceful, even in the most exciting moments. Every panel is glowing with a pure sense of composition that drives the story, as well as being just great to look at. It’s a testament to his skill that he can not only immerse the reader in the beauty of this “cursed” island, but to allow the technique of storytelling to be so subtly applied that it’s hard to see unless you go looking for it; it’s the forest that’s hard to see the trees through.
This is not only a must-read for folks who love Samurai stories, but anyone who is a fan of the medium when it’s elevated to art. This is a moving story that is a real pleasure to read.
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