Stumptown Trade Review is proud to welcome the newest member of our team, Rex! Hailing from the wilds of the Midwest, Rex brings over 20 years of comic enthusiasm to the team. He will also be our roving Midwest reporter, so look for him at events in the near future! Join us in welcoming Rex!
Great comics are not created because someone specifically chose to make something
great. An extraordinary book is generally born from the love of the medium and an intense
desire to tell a story. Classics are classics because they contain many inadvertent elements.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the creators of Samurai’s Blood really understood this concept. Had they understood this notion, they could have produced something amazing. Instead they gave us a story that was overdone and cliché.
The story by Owen Wiseman is a straightforward samurai tale: observed many times in the martial arts movie genre. It’s about the vengeance of a clan who’s power was usurped by dishonorable villains. Two Samurai kill the ruling clan’s leader and take the seat of power in a northern Japanese providence. They massacre the entire Sanjo family to prevent any of the clan’s heirs from seeking revenge. However two members escape; an heir, Sanjo Jun, and his sister, Sanjo Mayuke. They are accompanied by their childhood friend, and Mayuke’s lover, Katashi. Through their endeavors the three survivors find themselves in the middle of a lot of
strife. Katashi begins fighting in death matches and struggles with dishonor, while Mayuke gets kidnapped and sold into slavery. The strife fragments the survivors and nearly shatters Jun and Katashi’s friendship. Without giving away the twist, this is the point where something major in the story changes. Normally I wouldn’t even elude to the twist to avoid spoilers; however, after this twist most of these important character developing events are completely disregarded, and the story quickly resolves itself.
This book suffers from three significant issues which prevent it from being something
really fantastic. The biggest issue is the lack of traditional story guiding narration. Samurai’s
Blood has narration, but it is all prose that goes on about the way of the samurai and
honor. The next issue is the attempt to create a semi-nonlinear story, which results in some
flashback whiplash. The final issue is in the act structure, the story climax happens too late in the book making the story resolution feel very rushed. Given the languorous pace of this story by the time the climax arrived I was thrilled that finally something unexpected had happened.
The writing, aside from the narration, is not bad. My only peeve was the lack of character
identification. It was difficult to follow the characters because the author seemed to have an
aversion to stating character names. While it’s natural in life for people not to blatantly say each other’s names, it’s required in literature until the characters are well-established. Following the character for many pages before their name is casually mentioned does not establish that character in the reader’s mind, and therefore, does not connect the reader to the story.
The art is very good, but I think it lacking something. Nam Kim’s, work is technically
very sound, no odd angles or incorrect anatomy, but it doesn’t have strong stylistic presence on the page. While I have no qualms with what is here, I would have preferred a style that enhanced the comic’s setting and story.
Overall, I didn’t outright dislike this book, but it could have been significantly better.
If there was no distracting narrative prose, and the pacing was improved, it would have been
a great read. Unfortunately these simple issues made reading this book more of a task than an
enjoyment. Although this book failed to impress me, I will be looking out for more of their work in the future. This production team is talented and if they ever tackle a more original idea, with the solid intension of telling a story from the heart, it could lead to something truly grand.