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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Samurai. Jim Alexander (Writer), Luke Cooper (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters). Planet Jimbot (2016)

A engaging and entertaining stripped down story about revenge and choices. A Samurai returns to his village after being called to war to find that it has been destroyed by marauders have ransacked the village and killed everyone in it. He seeks revenge for this and then encounters a lone survivor from another attack and they continue together.
This is about as slender a story as it is possible to create a cohesive narrative with and this creates interesting story problems which Jim Alexander solves with thoughtful care. The motivation for the samurai is a genre classic, away at war he returns to death and destruction. He turns to revenge as all that he has to now live for. This is a classic because it does the job very efficiently, a understandable motive to propel the character into action. The first story problem is with the villains who have caused the destruction, are they both awful enough to be deserving of the revenge and dangerous enough to pose a problem to the revenger. An additional problem, frequently ignored in the genre is are they interesting enough that when trouble does come they fight has some weight beyond the physical?
With remarkable economy Jim Alexander solves all the problems and adds a smart twist that lifts the story out of the ordinary. The marauders, left behind by the end of the war and their side's defeat are given the time and space to register with the reader. They crave death and destruction as much as the samurai and they violent battle is superbly staged. Then Jim Alexander moves the story and the entirely unexpected appears and shows that one of the pleasures of genre conventions is artfully upsetting them. The samurai then continues and makes a choice that shows that revenge is not the only response he has left to the world. Again a unexpected move is made and the final road is opened for the samurai to travel with company this time.
Jim Alexander has made really good use of he compression to play with reader expectations while being entirely faithful to genre requirements. With so little space any story misstep or mistake would be fatal, none are made. The story works as a self contained fragment, it hides the very considerable craft needed to be able to do that.
The art by Like Cooper, black, white and gray is as lean and economical as the the story and it captures all the aspects with flair and drama. The art provides the action and the force that the story needs to work, the samurai's assault on the  marauders is a one page panel of extraordinary force and compression, it strips everything down to rage, blood and revenge. The unexpected event that follows is a lesson in how to unhesitatingly go for an idea and deliver it with just the right edge of bitter black comedy.Luke Cooper delivers the spaces between the action just as well as the action, the choices made are not made lightly and the characters clearly show this.
Jim Campbell's letters are clean, unobtrusive, his sound effects are smashing. They are just the perfect way to convey the action in the
loud way that is needed. They bring the drama of the action to the fore giving the action a physical contact that it demands.
An entirely satisfying, smart comic that packs a bigger punch that would be expected.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy that was kindly sent by Jim Alexander of Planet Jimbot. The Samurai will be launched at Birmingham Comics Festival (Edgbaston Stadium) on Saturday 23rd of April 2016. If you want to buy a copy, you should comics have been clinically proven to promote good health and visibly increase reader happiness, then The Samurai can be purchased from the Planet Jimbot shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/273712752/the-samurai

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