Kurogane Vol. 3 (Del Rey)

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This time around, Jintetsu acts more as punctuation than a focal point to these wandering tragedies.

 

 

272 Pages B&W; $10.95

(W / A: Kei Toume)

 

 

Continuing the theme of troubled pasts, writer-artist Kei Toume conjures up a world of disappointment in this third volume of the wanderings of Jintetsu, an angst-filled assassin in an amalgamated steel body. Instead of Jintetsu's struggle, Toume chooses this time to focus on characters whose own stories are just as populated with tragedy. Yet through these, readers never lose sight of Jintetsu who acts more as punctuation than a focal point.

 

The cover to Kurogane Vol. 3. Click thumbnail for a larger version.Jintetsu's traveling first finds him in the company of a hospitable gentleman and his quiet wife, only to discover that the man's paranoia led him to kill wary travelers and turn them into Jintetsu's much like the protagonist. Fortunately, Jintetsu figures this plot out rather quickly, and by aiding the man in self-reflection, confronts the gentleman with a past so horrifying that only suicide appears to be a viable option.

 

As if that wasn't depressing enough, Jintetsu continues his journey only to receive a couple assassination propositions, a kidnap request, word of gang wars, double suicides, and a drug-maddened "supernatural" threat. Toume is certainly not holding back with the pathos in this volume. However, to her credit, none of the episodes are overly sentimental. She gets in, says what she needs to, and gets out, while still leaving the mini-story with its dignity.

 

The artwork provides a pleasing support to these vignettes and moves from sketchy details to hyper clarity, all in the matter of a few panels. Toume breaks away from more charcoaled-looking panels to richly inked and dramatically shadowed scenes. Where movement through time is important, Toume highlights the past in grainy black and gray tones. And while character expressions are vivid, Toume still suffers from the difficulties that many artists do in creating dynamic panels. For some reason, movement sequences elude Toume. During swordfights and in moments where more than one person's actions are involved, Toume does not seem too able to handle quick, multi-person scenes without some aspect of the sequence jarring readers.

 

Still, the writing has improved over the previous volume, and Toume seems more willing to trust readers with some of the nuances of unspoken dialogue. Sure there are blips here and there of overwrought wording, but for the most part the stories are all reasonably satisfying. Whether or not they are entertaining depends upon the reader's perspectives in life, but they are at least promising, and if Toume can move Jintetsu back into focus and create for him a story as interesting as a fraction of what exists in his volume, then readers will be in for a pleasant surprise. | James Nokes

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