Love cures all ills. Or most of them.
The last series of Samurai left us on a happy note, though tinged with mystery. Having freed the Island with No Name from the grip of a Yakuza heavy, Takeo and his brother pursue the mystery of the sigil and note that he was left along with his unconscious state. Buoyed by their good fortune and incorrigible Buddhist companion, they set out to take the world on their terms, but it’s not long until the world imposes on them.
Jean-François Di Giorgio knows exactly how to build a good Samurai story, by making the characters solid and interesting, sprinkling everyone with varying degrees of honor and hubris. The setup in this first issue is almost identical to the last series, but I feel that there’s a lot of play in the “let’s trick the Samurai into doing our bidding” trope, so I don’t terribly mind. Much like kabuki, the stories may be well known, but in the Japanese tradition it’s the depth and details of the stories that make every one worth engaging with. There’s foolishness aplenty on display. With the mysterious stranger we saw at the end of the last issue still dogging our hero’s tails, it sets up a wonderful atmosphere, rich with the feeling of a picnic before a storm, where we, the audience, can see potential disaster looming for happy-go-lucky folks and presenting us with a satisfying dichotomy.
Frederic Genet is a stunning artist, and with Delphine Rieu adding a wondrous palette to his work, it makes for one of the prettiest books out there right now. The team tries to add life to every panel, making the background a vibrant, living thing that gives them more tools in generating atmosphere, making the world a character unto itself. The dichotomy that I mentioned above is helped greatly by the panels showing the stranger, looming and intimate. These few panels thrown into the mostly positive and upbeat issue make for a great bit of emotionally charged visual storytelling. I’d recommend this book on the strength of the art team alone; it’s just fantastic to look at.
You can certainly jump into this series and feel like you’re caught up. The whole creative team ensures that the reader is engaged regardless of which puzzle pieces may be missing. Add to that a lively cast who begin as tropey dopes yet grow into something much more interesting, and you have a recipe for a great read that satisfies on many levels.
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