Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Release Date: 27th November 2019
Ronin Island, from Greg Pak and Giannis Milonogiannis, is set in a fictional version of 19th century Japan, Korea and China in the wake of a catastrophic event called the “Great Wind”. In the aftermath, a small group of survivors from each nation have found refuge and united on a peaceful island, trying to gradually rebuild their lives. However, when the Shogun’s soldiers show up demanding fealty, with a marauding pack of mutated monsters hot on their heels, two youngsters will be forced to put their differences aside in order to save friend, family and enemy alike.
What’s particularly impressive about Pak’s writing here is the way he handles the exposition, gradually drip-feeding the reader information throughout the course of the story rather than hitting us with an intimidating onslaught right from the get-go. This is particularly noticeable with the allusions to the “Great Wind”, which starts off as something broadly metaphorical before the true horror is gradually revealed.
The two leads – Kenichi, the naïve son of a great samurai leader and Hana, the orphaned daughter of a Korean farmer – are both intriguing enough, and their bickering and snarky interactions provide the emotional backbone of the story. Hana is perhaps a little too arrogant and Kenichi too brash and impetuous, but their frequent decisions, both good and bad, help to keep the fast-paced narrative jolting forwards.
Milonogiannis’ artwork is solid throughout, packed with expressive characters and freaky monster design in equal measure, along with some impressive backdrops that really help to establish the distinctive setting of the story. The overall tone and aesthetic of the series feels light in spite of the darker moments, with Milonogiannis’ slightly cartoony artwork preventing things from ever becoming too bleak or too dour. Death is rife though, and while the gore is dialled down a little for the younger readers, the emotional impact of these moments certainly isn’t.
Ultimately, this opening four-issue arc does an impressive job of drawing the reader into the story, blending feudal Japanese history with fantasy and mythology and basing it all around two leading characters who, if not wholly likeable, are certainly interesting enough to keep the pages turning. An all-ages comic that never feels like it’s dumbing down its storytelling choices, Ronan Island is a coming-of-age horror drama that comes highly recommended.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]