Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Samurai: Heaven & Earth

I don't usually post about comics other than DC. That's mostly because I don't read much else. But when I heard about Samurai: Heaven & Earth by Ron Marz and Luke Ross, I knew I had to check it out. I just finished it, and it's far better than I could have imagined.

Ron Marz really seem to get the samurai. It's very rare to find a samurai in Western movies, television, or comics that is more than simply a stereotype. And as someone with a degree in Japanese History from an accredited university, I think I'm at least moderately qualified to say that Ron Marz gets it.

Oh, the sense of honor is there. When most people outside of Japan think of samurai, they think of honor. But more than the honor there is the sense of duty. Duty to one's lord or duty to one's love. And it's the latter that Marz plays with in Samurai. And it works beautifully. Fish out of water stories are always excellent; taking someone from their normal setting and dropping them into another world can create delightful results.

So what exactly happens when a man crosses what to him is the known world to find the woman he loves? What happens when a Japanese samurai finds himself in the middle of Louis XIV's France?

Honestly, all hell breaks loose. And Marz plays it right. He makes very clear that this man -- this samurai -- doesn't understand the world he's in. Even more importantly, he doesn't care. When he's asked to kill someone important to gain his freedom he'll do it without as second thought. Because all that really matters to him is his duty. And that's the heart of the samurai ethic.

Of course, I didn't enjoy it for just academic reasons. I enjoyed it because it's one hell of a trip. Marz manages to hit every mark spot on, and his dialogue is clever and often brilliant ("All these clothes they make their women wear... Stupid.") And the fights are quite honestly awesome. You've all probably seen the ridiculous mock battles to be found on the internet (Ninja vs. Pirate, anyone?). But here we have the Three Musketeers vs. a Samurai. And it works.

Of course, the fights wouldn't work if they weren't properly drawn. And in this comic every gorgeous fight scene is perfectly rendered thanks to the glorious art of Luke Ross (current artist of DC's Jonah Hex series). His art is perfect for this series. And Jason Keith's colors hit all the right marks, too.

I think I can honestly say that Samurai: Heaven & Earth is perfect in every way. Here's hoping that the teased 2006 sequel makes it to the stands.


At 1:00 AM, Blogger James Meeley said...

Dude, I couldn't agree more. That's why it was a no-brainer for me to name this series my pick of 2005. As I said in the piece: "This is comics done RIGHT!"

I, too, hope the sequel mini-series keeps the quality of the first.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Melchior del DariĆ©n said...

A samurai in 18C France sounds like a crazy idea; but it's always in the execution. Thanks to your write-up and JM's recommendation, I'll be looking to pick up the available issues.

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