Oof, wow. Issue 9 of Grek Pak and Giannis Milonogiannis’ Ronin Island is particularly heartbreaking. They begin the issue with a flashback, reminding us of Hana’s background. She’s the daughter of a poor Korean farmer living on a secluded island with a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean people and cultures. 20 years prior, the Great Wind swept across the land and killed almost everything in its path, except for the people on the island. As much as they are supposed to be a community, living and thriving together, racism and classism still exist. Hana takes the brunt of both, but she’s reminded by an elder that she has her place and will be the one to make it better.
Cut to the present when a mad child who plays at being the new Shogunate is seeking the whereabouts of the island. Plus, a terrible plague passed by spores is turning humans into brainless, zombie-like rock monsters called Byonin. Hana and her equal and opposite Kenichi [the son of a wealthy Japanese (race) samurai (class) family] are leading a group of refuges who fled the shogunate to take refuge on the island, but the Shogunate’s men and a group of bandits are chasing them down.
It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, and it’s emotionally involving. Ronin Island has been a sleeper adventure hit for me. Milonogiannis’ beautiful, anime-inspired artwork is just rough enough around the edges that it gives the characters a human quality that they probably wouldn’t have if everything looked really, really clean. Kind of like the difference between film and super hi-def TV.
In every issue, Hana and Kenichi have not only been challenged physically, but also their character – who they are and who they strive to be as people – has been pushed to the brink. I wonder if this new turn will push Hana past her limits, unable to truly come back.
Creative Team: Greg Pak (writer), Giannis Milonogiannis (art), Irma Kniivila (colors), Simon Bowland (letters), Amanda Lafranco (editor)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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