‘Ronin Island #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Samurai movies are some of my favorites. Watching Kurosawa weave universal tales and Toshiro Mifune cutting down endless numbers of foes, films simply called Kill! wove 1960s-style cinema with breathless fight choreography and riveting stories of characters barely surviving. For me, there was something otherworldly, yet completely relatable, as themes of honor, loyalty, and death were explored in ways that made my imagination spin uncontrollably. And even though there is a strong similarity, I feel more connected to the worlds of the Samurai than I ever could to those in a Western, and that’s closer to my culture. That’s a whole other article, so I digress…

With Ronin Island, Greg Pak, the writer who is given carte blanche with the Hulk over at Marvel, dives into this personally beloved genre with a YA attitude in tow. Ten years after the Shogunate was wiped out, the survivors of all affiliations ended up on an island, choosing to survive together. Over this period of time, they’ve managed to create a small and resilient, self-contained society. It’s a big day for a number of reasons, as two teenagers on the island, Kenichi (the son of a noble -wealthy) and Hana (the daughter of a farmer - poor), are graduating to become full-fledged Samurai. They spend most of the issue at each other’s throats, so a competition to see “who is the best” is a suitable place to begin the story.

The two characters are fun and immediately familiar. You might find yourself rooting for one over the other, but before this story has a chance to really follow through, another pops up, and then almost immediately after that, another! We hardly get a chance to breathe, as the story suddenly expands to a exist on a massive scale. A lot of times, I wonder if a five-issue story arc could be condensed down to three. Here, I wondered if maybe the last six pages could have happened in the second issue before the third element was announced. But there is something about these characters who are introduced to a pretty serious problem and then thrust into something beyond their control before figuring out just how much of a problem that first thing could be in the future. I’m curious to see how Pak allows these elements to unfold. I’m not telling you what these elements are, because… read the comic; it’s off to a solid start!

There's no doubt that this will be a coming-of-age story dealing with Japanese and Samurai history and mythology and will deal with some of the themes that I brought up in the first paragraph, so I’m 100% on board. Giannis Milonogiannis (illustrator) and Irma Kniivila (colorist) make this a really-easy-on-the-eyes read. There are some soft elements of manga, but not overtly so. It’s just a good story to look at.

Creative Team: Greg Pak (writer), Giannis Milonogiannis (artist), Irma Kniivila (colors), Simon Bowland (letters), Cameron Chittock (editor), Amanda Lafranco (assistant editor)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Click here to purchase.

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