Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: Swordsmith Assassin #1

I love a good samurai story. Some people may think they're played out, but give me a well-written lonesome samurai story and I'm all set. Boom! Studios are big fans of samurai tales as well, and their latest work, Swordsmith Assassin, has the makings of something really awesome. I previewed the book last week, but yesterday Boom! Studios sent me a hot-off-the-presses copy of the book. After giving it a read through, I think the best way to describe it is intriguing. Read on for an advanced review, keeping in mind that there are some spoilers. The series focuses on Toshiro Ono, a renowned swordsmaker who had intense values impressed upon him by his honorable father. After his father's passing however, Ono realizes that his metallurgical prowess can be put to use in supporting his wife and daughter. It's a story that we've seen time after time, but that doesn't make it any less impactful. Sure, Ono benefited greatly from his skill by selling to the highest bidder, but it was this same practice that upset the balance in his life. Ono's wealth didn't come without it's perils; as a richer man, his household attracted individuals of the sordid variety. One of them happened upon his house during a robbery, and in the process of taking from Ono killed his wife and child. In a fit of rage Ono desperately tracks down the lowly thief responsible and learns that he sold a sword to the thief in question. He attacks the thief but is no match for his trained swordsmanship. It's only as a result of fate (and sake) that Ono wins the battle. Too weak to commit seppuku, Ono vows to seek out all the swords he ever crafted in an attempt to destroy them all. This entire story is told as a flashback, as the issue opens up with Ono in West Prussia, 1870, surrounded by soldiers. The man he is visiting at this encampment happens to have a sword of his, and Ono tells the man the above story to encourage him to return the crafted sword to Ono for destruction. The writing by Andrew Cosby and Michael Alan Nelson is excellent and really moves the story along, while at the same time keeping a samurai spirit. I think I have to give the creative nod to artist Ayhan Hayrula though as the reason for this book's awesomeness. No offense whatsoever to writers Costby and Nelson. It's just that there's a certain gritty quality about Hayrula's work that adds a sort of ancient lens to the book. The colors are sort of washed out and dim, creating a sense of depression almost. The book doesn't hit until August, and when it does I highly recommend picking it up. Fans of samurai stories will definitely appreciate this series. The first ten pages of the first issue are below, so check them out and be sure to add Swordsmith Assassin #1 to your future list.

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