Samurai’s Blood #1-4 (Image/Benaroya Publishing)

If you’re a sucker for historical action, life-or-death struggles, and lightning samurai action, you’ll find much to like in this new miniseries from Owen Wiseman and Nam Kim.

 

24-32 pgs., color; $1.00 (first issue), $2.99 (issues 2-4)
(W: Owen Wiseman; A: Nam Kim)
 
I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned historical adventure story and that’s just what you get with Samurai’s Blood, a six-issue comics series from Benaroya Publishing. The story is set in the mid-17th century and issue #1 sets up the premise for the series as almost all of the Sanjo clan is destroyed through the treachery of Gakushi and his second-in-command, Araku. Only three young adults remain: Sanjo Junichi, heir of the Sanjo Clan; Kajiro Katashi, his best friend; and Sanjo Mayuko, Junichi’s sister and Katashi’s girlfriend. Their duty, of course, is to seek revenge for their clan, and the comic combines a coming-of-age tale with a samurai epic as these three characters must grow up quickly and engage in real-world action against an enemy which may well destroy them (the last two Harry Potter movies come immediately to mind, which just shows that this kind of story never goes out of style). 
 
I don’t want to give away too much of the story except to say that there is plenty of both action and sex (this series is for older teenagers and up) and not a lot of downtime. In truth, Samurai’s Blood is more notable for the quality of its execution than for any novelties in the plot or characters, so if you enjoy heroic samurai tales you will probably enjoy this comic as well. One of the best things about Samurai’s Blood is its strong period feel, which is carried in particular by Nam Kim’s idealized yet realistic art and Jo Chen’s more expressionistic covers. The latter recall the grandeur of old-style movie posters, where everything seems larger than life. There’s one other thing I particularly like about this series: it feels like a comic, not a storyboard created to pitch a movie idea (although this story would probably make a great movie as well).
 
Many of the frames in Samurai’s Blood include black-and-white text boxes containing moral exhortations or statements of philosophy like "Before a battle, a samurai must search his heart, and scour his mind, to clear away all doubt") which provide a cultural context for the characters’ actions. This may sound corny (in a William Bennett Book of Virtues sort of way) but it works well within a comic where everything the characters do is part of a life-or-death struggle and there’s nothing more important than defending your family’s good name. A second set of boxes, using black lettering against a yellow background, keep you informed about the location and time of events. This second set of boxes uses a light lettering style which is hard to read and puts me in mind of the "chop suey" fonts which you used to see on the menus of Chinese restaurants. I’m pretty sure that was not the intended effect so I hope letterer Josh Aitken, or whoever makes the decisions on these matters, will switch to something more readable for future series.
 
You can see a preview of Samurai’s Blood #1 at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=8889. | Sarah Boslaugh

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