Grim_Noir Gets Back To The Past With Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack cover 1

Title: Samurai Jack: Volume 1

Writers: Jim Zub

Cover: Andy Suriano

Art: Andy Suriano

Colors: Jim Burcham and Andy Suriano

Letterer: Shawn Lee

Published by IDW Publishing

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

It’s not easy to write an all-ages comic book. Most people hear the tag “All-Ages” and think “Kiddie.” This could not be farther from the truth: Writing for children and writing for a general audience are two entirely different skill sets. A quick perusal of the Pixar film catalog can show you the difference: “Cars” is a little kids movie, but Brad Bird is doing something more sophisticated and nuanced in “The Incredibles.” Jim Zub is definitely writing for children, teens AND adults with IDW’s revival of Cartoon Network’s Samurai Jack.

If you weren’t born in 2001, or possibly were living under a rock, or in a coma, the original Samurai Jack cartoon was created by Genndy Tartakovsky. (That’s right, the guy who also created Dexter’s Lab and Sym-Bionic Titan, wrote for The Powerpuff Girls and directed the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie.) The original Samurai Jack TV series tells the story of a young samurai named Jack (duh) whose father’s kingdom was destroyed by a shape-shifting demon named Aku (the Japanese word for “Evil”). Jack takes up his father’s magical katana and drives back Aku, almost to the point of killing the villain, but at the last minute, Aku casts a spell that propels Jack into the far distant Future. There, Jack quickly discovers a dystopia that has been completely corrupted by the immortal Aku. Now, Jack’s only goal is to get back to the Past and stop Aku before the demon can become an all-controlling force.

Samurai Jack Issue 1 Page 2

Phil LaMarr voiced Jack and a gleefully scene-chewing Mako voiced Aku. Their characters would battle across multiple futuristic sci-fi scenarios, like an action-oriented Futurama. Most of the big fight scenes would reference Kung-Fu, the films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and the code of the Samurai. The show lasted 4 seasons and is still being shown Saturday nights on Cartoon Network’s Toonami overnight block.

In February 2013, Jim Zub and Andy Suriano (the original character designer for the Samurai Jack TV series) would launch a comic book of Jack’s adventures; picking up after the end of Season Four of the series. Issues 1-5 of this comic book (the “Threads of Time” arc) are collected in this month’s trade paperback. Not since Mark Waid and Chris Samnee revived Daredevil have we seen anything like this tale.

Samurai Jack Issue 4 Page 1

Mr. Zub starts the new series with an homage of his own, honoring the epic quests of comic book heroes in the 1970s. Jack comes across a mystic hermit in the wastelands who tells the warrior that Aku needed a physical component to cast the spell that sent Jack into the Future — a magic item called the Rope of Eons. Fearing Jack might return if given the slightest chance, Aku unraveled the RopeĀ and dispersed the individual threads across the globe. Jack has found new hope and a new mission: He WILL find all the threads, return to the Past to stop Aku and prevent this Future from ever happening!

Zub really know how to create a quest story, it is well-plotted with both new and returning characters becoming endearing almost instantly. The plot is dense, yet well-paced; full of twists and references to other comics and cult films, yet never losing its own unique identity.

Suriano’s artwork more than keeps step with Zub’s storyline. Eisner-esque chapter titles dance inside every issue’s opening page. Stylistic tips of the hat to everyone from Jim Steranko to Goseki Kojima to John Kricfalusi energize every single panel. Suriano’s linework is vaguely Asian-inspired and gives the impression that he almost cannot get it all on the page fast enough.

Samurai Jack Issue 3 Action

This project is a labor of love for both gentlemen and it shows EVERYWHERE in this first collected volume. Clearly, each is daring the other to new heights with every new issue.

So, to any fan of Bushido who has not read this book, all I can say is, “You don’t know Samurai, Jack.

Samurai Jack Cover 4

 

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or “Friend” on Facebook or Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

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