By Leroy Douresseaux
February 19, 2007 - 10:38
Samurai: Heaven & Earth, Vol. II is the second of two five-issue mini-series about a samurai who journeys across half the world to rescue the woman he loves. Dark Horse Comics published Vol. I in 2005 and published a trade collection in 2006.
At the beginning of Vol. II, the samurai Asukai Shiro had briefly reunited with his love, Lady Yoshiko. She is, however, kidnapped by Don Miguel Ratera Aguilar, a man who befriended Shiro with the intention of using him as a political assassin. Issue #2 finds Shiro in Spain with his reluctant ally, Safwah Ibn Badr al Din, the slave trader who originally brought Yoshiko to Europe. The duo finds passage to the New World where Don Miguel, with Yoshiko in tow, is apparently headed. Fate, however, deals Shiro another blow, and he must fight a ship full of sailors who stand between him and his continuing journey to rescue his love.
Sometimes, what publishers call "graphic novels" are just trade collections of comic books featuring any number of stories and plots. Samurai: Heaven & Earth is actually a serialized novel following a main plot line, so I could see both mini-series eventually collected as one large graphic novel.
I don't think of Samurai: Heaven & Earth as a great work, although I've only read one issue, but it is good. A combination of romantic adventure and historical fiction, Samurai is the kind of work that could appeal to a broad range of readers who will read comics, but not superhero comics or any of the large number of recent comics that riff on sci-fi, fantasy, and horror to one extent or another - with some even being superhero comics disguised as another genre.
With its cliffhanger and "To be continued…" endings,
Ron Marz has created an engaging serial that doesn't feel stretched, as if he's cheating the reader. He gently teases the reader to continue.
Luke Ross adds an illustrated flair to his sequential art that is perfect for Marz's setting. Samurai: Heaven & Earth is an interesting comic book, and it almost seems as if it belongs in Europe, where it would fit in better there than in here in the Direct Market of American comic book shops.