cover image BASTARD SAMURAI 1: Samurai Noir


Michael Avon Oeming, . . Image, $12.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-1-58240-283-3

Celebrating the triumph of style over substance, these authors succeed in making something out of almost nothing. An underground sword school raised Jiro as a martial warrior and now uses the young man in death matches staged on Manhattan rooftops for the entertainment of visiting Japanese businessmen. Jiro is utterly focused on perfecting his combat skills until one night he realizes the opponent he just beheaded was his brother. Suddenly convinced he's been misled, Jiro takes up his sword to hack the whole rotten samurai system apart. Much slashing ensues, and that's about it for plot. Keeping the story simple isn't a bad idea since, especially in the many combat scenes, the art's vigorous stylization makes it difficult to know exactly what's happening. This collection of the comic's first three issues finishes a brief story loop, including three associated short stories, without any unfinished business or many survivors. Still, despite the lack of human interest, it's an attractive book. The overall design is streamlined, like Batman Beyond, with bursts of Frank Miller's jittery energy and Dave McKean's adventurous color, but the creators have fused all those influences into a fairly distinctive style. The story compels, even when it's not doing much readers haven't seen before. During his first battle, Jiro comments on the foolishness of clinging to one's past or relying on future expectations; instead, he says, samurai strive to concentrate themselves on the ima, the now of immediate sensory experience. This book may be the perfect expression of that attitude. (Aug.)