Genshi is a tormented man. Nightmares of the night his family was brutally murdered haunt him, and he has started seeing visions of a supernatural force promising death and power; however, the young warrior only longs for two things: becoming a full-fledged Iga clan shinobi and openly claiming the love of his master’s daughter, Lady Akemi. Genshi is marked by something that will challenge his sense of honor and ability to do his duty to those he loves most.
G: Honor and Curse is one of the first titles from Mad Cave Studios, and while I didn’t adore this first issue, I must acknowledge that it’s a strong beginning for the new creative group. Readers who love Samurai films and flawed heroes will immediately be sucked into Genshi’s tale and appreciate the traditional origin story that hits the high points for opening any such tale. The beginning pages where Genshi struggles with the being inside himself intrigued me, so I was a little disappointed by going back to the beginning for a retread of how he got to the point in the beginning. I wanted more of man versus the darkness rather than how he got there. (Maybe I’m just overloaded on superhero origin stories.) Personally, I would have preferred to cut from past to present in a less linear fashion, since I wanted more about current Genshi; however, for readers who prefer more linear narratives, the style will work quite well.
G: Honor and Curse isn’t the strongest candidate for readers who are looking for strong female characters. There is a hint of a dangerous kunoichi (female ninja), but she hasn’t shown up yet. Lady Akemi is the only pictured woman aside from a brief bit with Genshi’s mother, and Akemi’s portrayal is hampered by the time period. (She’s no Lady Murasaki or Sei Shonogan.) While her pursuit of a man below herself in station may be seen as bold, I found it a little anachronistic, plus I suspect she exists primarily to give Genshi a reason to angst. The only other women referenced in the story are the exact opposite of the maidenly Akemi, whores and performers (Side note: Geisha were not technically prostitutes.) that the young shinobi trainees feel comfortable referencing as objects more than people.
For me, the highlight of this first volume of G: Honor and Curse was the incredible detail and coloring of the artwork. It’s not photo perfect, but the hairstyles, costumes, and settings all fit the time period. The action sequences with the shinobi students feature some amazing use of lines and shading to indicate movement, and the dark being pursuing Genshi is appropriately eerie and menacing. The random characters with brown hair rather than black threw me off a little, but it still looked nice.
I have a background in Asian studies and Japan, so I’m a little more critical of G: Honor and Curse than the average reader. There is definitely an intriguing tale about Genshi’s struggles with himself that I would like to see grow through later issues, and I think that many fans of ninja and Samurai-themed media will adore this series. It’s a good start, and I hope to see it grow into its full potential as the comic progresses.
3.75 Training Sessions Under a Waterfall out of 5