Review - Ronin Island #1 (@boomstudios)

"You're not ready!"

Humans are tribal in nature and--as such--look for similarities in those around them to gravitate towards. Many times this leads to conflict amidst humans, but when they can unite against a common enemy as in Ronin Island #1 from BOOM! Studios, the results can be a lot more uplifting. The issue is written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Giannis Milonogiannis, colored by Irma Kniivila and lettered by Simon Bowland.

After a mysterious attack wipes out the major cities of 19th century Japan, Korea, and China, survivors from all three lands find refuge on a hidden island and build a new society. Hana, the orphaned daughter of Korean peasants, and Kenichi, son of a great samurai leader, have little in common except for a mutual disdain for the other. But these young warriors will have to work together when an army invades the island with shocking news: there is a new Shogun and the Island is expected to pay fealty in exchange for protection from a new enemy...a mutated horde that threatens to wipe out all humanity.

The histories of Japan, Korea and China are chock full of various ruling parties and Pak is thrusting them all together in the face of an even graver threat. To that end, most of the issue focuses on Hana and Kenichi, both of whom represent very different cultural legacies and are seemingly at odds with one another about who should lead the island. Pak positions their competition in a relatively lighthearted way though, pitting them against one another as if they were young schoolyard rivals more than anything. Pak paces the issue very moderately and lets things happen without forcing things as well, moving through the issue quite leisurely in building up to the series reveal at the end of the issue. There's also a good mix of old and new guards butting heads in regards to the direction of the island which Pak uses as a great means of providing perspective to the reader.

Milonogiannis uses a very simple linework throughout the issue that is very reminiscent of Stan Sakai's work in Usagi Yojimbo. Each of the characters are drawn with wispy lines that accentuate the physiques of the characters without being too intense about it. Much of the action is handled in the forefront of the panels with Milonogiannis focusing on the characters in each panel as opposed to fleshing out the entirety of the setting as well. Milonogiannis also does a great job of reconciling the various cultures in the appearances of the characters that makes each one easy to distinguish from the next. Kniivila's colors are very subtle in their presentation, blending together a mix of purples, blues and oranges to good effect.

Ronin Island #1 is a very strong first issue that lays a lot of groundwork for things to come. The overarching concept of the issue (and series) is actually pretty fascinating as it blends old-school cultures with new school science-fiction. Pak's script is very enjoyable and easy to read, providing the right amount of context so the reader has a good sense of what's going on and what to expect from the characters. Milonogiannis's artwork is simplistic yet appropriate for injecting a sense of lightheartedness into the story. Ronin Island #1 is a great first issue of a new series that pays respect to the ways of the past by offering them an opponent that seems to be out of their element.

Ronin Island #1 is available March 6,