Publisher: Planet Jimbot
Writer: Jim Alexander
Artist: Luke Cooper
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 23rd April, 2016
The latest offering from Scottish publisher Planet Jimbot, The Samurai is a one-shot made up of two tales of vengeance featuring an unnamed, sword-wielding hero.
The first story sees the titular Samurai returning home from helping defend his kingdom from the invading Mongol hordes, only to find his village destroyed and his wife slaughtered. The concept isn’t perhaps the most inventive, but Alexander handles it with deft care, spinning a tightly focused tale of vengeance as the Samurai discovers a group of the marauders who have laid waste to the village, and – well – let’s just say he vents a little of his frustration.
The second tale sees the Samurai hitting the road in an attempt to track down the rest of the marauders, only to discover a young girl whose own village has been decimated. Weighing up her welfare against his own burning thirst for vengeance, he makes the decision to rescue her from the encroaching cannibals who live in the surrounding woods. Once again, Alexander’s writing takes a simple, almost clichéd concept and fleshes it out beautifully, adding a sense of depth to the Samurai’s struggle.
As has become his trademark, not a word or panel is wasted here as Alexander cuts through the filler to stay focused on the job at hand, packing a great deal of story, emotion and action into the relatively limited page count. It’s a minimalistic style, with all unnecessary detail and exposition swept to one side in favour of the here and now, and while it does leave the reader begging for a little more information about the who and why, it definitely doesn’t diminish the experience in any way.
The trimmed-down nature of the story also marries up perfectly with the typically stark, stylised images of artist Luke Cooper. His unapologetically unconventional approach works extremely well here, with his familiar heavily inked style and a fascinating use of negative space as the Samurai slices and dices his way through all the obstacles put before him.
There’s an unnerving sterility to the artwork which some may find jarring, but which actually pays off incredibly well here, from the almost hauntingly neat pile of disembodied heads and limbs to the razor precision with which the Samurai’s sword removes arms, heads and faces. It’s a striking aesthetic for sure, and while it may not perhaps feel comfortable for a lot of palates, I always have been and always will be a firm fan of Cooper’s distinctive work.
Overall then, while it’s not quite up there with Planet Jimbot’s best, this stripped-down tale of swords, monsters and vengeance is a solid, engaging read wrapped up in an impressively eye-catching visual package. Fingers crossed that we can revisit this world and this character somewhere later down the line, as I can’t help feeling that there’s so much more story to be told here.
The Samurai’s official launch will take place at the Birmingham Comics Festival (Edgbaston Stadium) on Saturday 23rd of April, but for those of you who can’t make it, copies can be ordered from the Planet Jimbot Online Shop.
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