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Samurai: Heaven and Earth, Volume 2, #5

By Geoff Hoppe
Jul 21, 2007 - 15:11


Geez, they were selling candy bars for band...
A certain amount of this series is predicated on how neat it would be to see samurais fight pirates n’ musketeers n’ stuff. Fair enough. What makes Samurai: Heaven and Earth more than a ninjas-vs.-pirates debate in comic form is its swashbuckling spirit. The reader feels Errol Flynn could fall through the top of a panel, drop into Marz and Ross’s world, and feel right at home. Samurai: Heaven and Earth #5 captures all the excitement of an old-fashioned swashbuckler without any of the cheese.


The obligatory warning: Blood. Lots of it. Sharp, pointy objects being swiped about, which, as your third grade teacher suggested, ends only in tears.  


In Samurai: H & E #5, Asukai Shiro and his lover, Lady Yoshiko, find themselves trapped in an ancient Egyptian temple, surrounded by an Arab warlord and forty-so of his nastiest retainers. What ensues is a sharp-edged bloodbath, pure and simple, an idea with so much visual potential it would put Neal Adams to shame.


Fifty-six years ago, Akira Kurosawa showed the world that a samurai could look good in a Western aesthetic with Yojimbo. Countless cross-cultural jaunts later*, Ron Marz sticks a samurai among the ruins of Ramses, and man, does it ever look good. A lengthy battle with a horde of Arabian mercenaries ends with a duel in the middle of a sandstorm. Marz’s layouts make a potentially good idea into a panel-for-panel explosion that still maintains Samurai: Heaven and Earth’s eastern idiom.


Ironically enough, my only complaint is with the way Luke Ross executes the ancient temple’s backgrounds. The detail on the pillars, statues and idols is too indistinct. A medieval Japanese warrior in Egyptian trappings is a brilliant idea that deserves meticulous detail. The hazy style is certainly inkeeping with Ross’s aesthetic (and consistency is forever to an artist’s credit), but perhaps it would have been good to break with form on this occasion.




*Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of Dollars is a frame-for-frame reshoot of Yojimbo. I’m not kidding.

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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