SAMURAI’S BLOOD #2 of 6 (Benaroya Publishing / Image Comics) Story: Owen Wiseman. Art: Nam Kim, Matthew Dalton. Colors: Sakti Yuwono. Cover: Jo Chen. Release date July 13, 2011.
SAMURAI’S BLOOD escorts the reader through a tale of flight and revenge in feudal Japan and adds enough details of early Japanese culture, social mores, philosophy and the honorable traditions of the samurai to fill a notebook. Much of this detail is described in the captions which helps flavor the main story rather than interrupt it . It’s a nice effect, and best appreciated by going through this issue once without reading the captions, and then include them on the second reading. I’m on my third go-around and I’m still picking up more detail and finding new things to renew my appreciation.
As issue #1 ended, the three young Samurai-in-training obey their elders and flee the massacre of their clan in order to return and exact revenge at some future date. Issue #2 begins one week later as they gather outside the gates of Castle Sanjo and debate what course of action to take.
Headstrong Katashi, who has accepted his new role as servant/protector/samurai to Jin and his sister Mayuko, suggests storming the gates after dawn when the guards should be tired and more vulnerable. Jin advises against this, and states his preferences: “No. A headlong rush is never toward justice. We will retreat to the city and wait for our path to open.” Katashi responds: “I would rather die than retreat a single step.”, to which Jin replies: “There we are lucky you serve me instead of the reverse.”
There are internal and external conflicts. There is self-doubt and much questioning of the path forward. There is trial and much error. Leadership is questioned. These are three young people thrust into a role without preparation and before their training is complete. Left to their own inclinations, they hesitate and stumble. Each of the trio fortunately makes it to the end of the issue still alive, but not without changes and compromises that affect the character of each individual.
The SAMURAI”S BLOOD implied in the title is not alluding to the violence to occur and blood to be shed in this mini-series (although there is plenty of each, and vividly portrayed.) SAMURAI’S BLOOD instead refers to the Samurai tradition, as Katashi especially is not sure that he has samurai’s blood in his veins and is capable and fully prepared to do what he must do in his new role/responsibility. He follows Jin’s direction, and this seems to be leading him down a path that strays from the samurai principles.
During events in this issue, Mayuko is captured by Araku (the right hand man of Lord Gakushi, who ordered the elimination of their clan in Issue #1) and ends up being forced into servitude as a geisha. Katashi conceals his true identity and poses as Haniya Toshimitsu, a “second son” unsatisfied with his prospects and traveling to seek his fortune and reputation. They fall in with a wealthy villager who introduces them to the brutal and fatal combat games that are wagered on. They are further introduced to a suspicious man who offers to improve “Haniya’s” skills as a fighter, and now Jin assumes a new name as well. His plan is to get Katashi noticed by Araku, who has returned to the village to recruit new soldiers for Lord Gakushi, and who will then unwittingly provide their access to the inside of the castle.
After months of heavy training, Katashi grows impatient with Jin’s plan and suggests disguising himself in order to kill Araku without being identified. Jin discourages this plan and gets him to agree not to attempt it. As the captions reveal: “The third virtue of the samurai is obedience.” . . . . . “Small disobedience is the father of great regret.” . . . . . “It destroys the exchange between master and retainer.” A short time later an appropriately garbed ninja fails in an assassination attempt on Araku and during his escape is felled by an arrow, which drops him off the high wall into the river. Meanwhile Jin has maneuvered himself into Kinjo house, the exclusive playground / party house of the wealthy, where he sees exactly what has happened to his sister.
SAMURAI’S BLOOD is an engaging story that challenges the reader to follow all its intricacies and threads. It is definitely worth the effort and will reward those who give it a serious reading.
OTHER BOOKS RELEASED 7/13/2011 WORTHY OF INVESTIGATION: BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT #3; FRANKENSTEIN AND THE CREATURES OF THE UNKNOWN #2 of 3; HELLRAISER #3, LADY MECHANIKA; RED WING #1; SHERLOCK HOLMES, YEAR ONE #5; CAPTAIN AMERICA #1; and KULL THE HATE WITCH trade paperback.