“We are the last warriors, the last pacifists of that school, and I leave her inheritance in your hands… you are a Gaijin.” A feudal Japan with anthropomorphic and samurai animals inspired by Homer’s poem on “War of Mice and Frogs,” Batrachomyomachia. As in the classic poem, one tells of the futility of war and the desire for peace by Gaijin, a foreign salamander in a Japan of frogs invaded by lizards.
Sometimes all it takes to hook you into a comic is the title. A title like Cold Blood Samurai.
I hadn’t actually read the preview text when opening the comic, so I didn’t expect to find a comic featuring anthropomorphic reptiles. Massimo Rosi‘s story is also far more interesting that I expected, too; I’m not too familiar with Japanese history around the time the comic is set, but I didn’t need to be in order to become engrossed in this comic.
Rosi is able to set the scene and give a background to his story through the narration of the first half of the comic, bring those unfamiliar (like myself) up to speed with the story’s setting, which positions him in begin delving into the deeper themes of the series as the comic unfolds. Themes of war and peace, the reluctant hero outsider and the corruption of state. Cold Blood Samurai is a tense, yet gently paced read that will open its arms to you and pull you into the murky arms of a story that is, at it’s heart, about one verses many (though one gets the sense that this is an oversimplification of the comic).
Visually, penciller Ludovica Ceregatti and colourist Renato Stevanato have produced a visual style that easily enables the reader to differentiate between the frogs, lizards and the titular salamander whilst remaining on the more serious side of spectrum. There are some utterly wonderful silent action sequences that make an effective use of nine horizontal panels to create an elegant dance of death as the salamander faces off against nearly a dozen foes before zooming in to watch the lethality of his swords-creature-ship.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the first issue of this series, but now that I’ve found what could easily be one of the better comics from Action Lab, I’m looking forward to the second issue. Cold Blood Samurai took me by surprise – a wonderfully elegant surprise.
Story: Massimo Rosi Art: Ludovica Ceregatti
Colours: Renato Stevanato Lettering: Mattia Gentili
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy
Action Lab Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.