Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Graphic Novels Challenge: Samurai: Heaven and Earth, Vol. 2

Continuing the story of Shiro and Yoshiko begun in Volume 1, Samurai: Heaven and Earth's second collected volume follows the samurai pursuing Yoshiko from France to the Mahgreb and then across North Africa to Egypt after she is abducted - yet again - this time by a Spanish nobleman.

It's hard to escape the feeling that the whole purpose of this exercise is nothing more than an excuse to illustrate Yoshiko in a French gown and a harim girl's outfit, continuing the Japan-o-philia of the first volume, and indeed the artwork continues to be magnificent. I found myself struggling to remain interested - in the story, in the characters - particulaly while navigating the gaping plot holes. I mean, it's not like I was expecting With Fire and Sword here, but is it really asking too much for characters who are more than skillfully rendered cardboard cut-outs? I honestly had no stake in finding out if Shiro and Yoshiko would manage to be together in the end, and the last score of pages was a wearying plod to the end.

This seems to me like another lost opportunity. If Ron Marz was so desperate to tell the story of a samurai in Early Modern Europe, how 'bout using Hasekura Tsunenaga as a starting point, instead of this brutally contrived and ultimately unengaging attempt?

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