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Lone Wolf & Cub


The NZA
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This is, by far, the finest series ive read in a while.

The series was written in the 70's in Japan by Kazuo Koike, who spent a great deal of his lifetime researching Edo period Japanese history, wish shows in every story. Handling the art is Goseki Kojima - "With his unique style, Kojima created a new form of expressive visual interpretation for the graphic storytelling medium, and established for himself a position as a master craftsman with his groundbreaking work on Lone Wolf and Cub."

The art is stunning; silent landscape shots can go on for pages and manage to captivate as much as the well-choreographed action scense, which are also plentfiul.

A brief synopsis: Itto Ogami was the former Kogi Kaishakunin (Shogun's executioner, an extremely revered title) and carried out his duties honnorably until his family was slaughtered, with his only son Daigoro making it out as the sole survivor. Ogami comes to discover it wsa not a random attack, but rather an elaborate plot to have his entire clan dishonored, and decided to take his only son along with him down the assasian's road to hell.

The plot moves at a unique pace: one can read books of self-contained assasination stories, all incredibly detailed and cleverly written, until stumbling across a piece of the puzzle behind Itto's downfall. Without spoiling anything, ill say this much: by the time you reach a volume of double digits, Itto is facing down entire armies on his own - and this is anything but a superhero book. Its amazing how every time you think you have a feel for the book & know where its going, it still manages to surprise.

Dark Horse now publishes these volumes monthly. They weigh in around 300 pages each (with a japanese dictionary in the back for words that translate rough, as well as supplemental history for those interested) and each voulme costs less than ten dollars..its one of the best deals in comics these days.

The entire saga is told across 28 volumes, as yet unfinished in translation - volume 25 comes out tomorrow (woo hoo!) and the series finishes in late December.

 

I havent seen a series in which what Warren Ellis said about the artistic possiblities of comics more clearly illustrated. Mind you, this is a violent series and perhaps not always for the squemish, but it'd be a damn shame to let that scare you off - visually, historically, in its writing & portrayl of bushido (the way of the samurai) - this thing's a materpiece. The only downside is that to keep the series as cheap as it sells for, its printed in traditional small manga voulmes, which can be hard on the eyes at first, but i managed to read it even while recovering from eye surgery so its not impossible, anyway.

 

Aside from local comic shops, i recommend Ebay and Half.com to find early volumes.

Here's a really well-done fan site with more details, visuals, and links to buy the books.

 

lone_6.jpg

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Anyone wondering why and where from I picked my Senate name, member title and icon, this is the source. It is a masterpiece, a mixture of history, philosophy, drama and violence. I've read as far as vol 18 but I lost track of it so I want to re-read it from the start, I've lost one of the volumes though. When I find it I'm gonna read through the lot, I'll have caught up long before the end of the translations so I'll still get the cliffhanger last few.

 

SoF's read some too, don't know if he checks out this corner though, he doesn't buy comics, he just reads what I lend him (mooching bastard! :D ). I can't recommend this highly enough. :D :D :D

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Here's some more on the series' credentials, so you know its not just me & KOS hyping it:

 

-Eisner Award winner - Best Foregin Material (Eisner's like an Oscar to comics)

-Two time Harvey Award winner (also a prestigous award)

-Critically acclaimed in domestic & international newspapers, as well as magazines such as Spin, Pulp, Indy, and The Onion

-Recieves strong support from comic greats such as Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Powrs, Jinx), Frank Miller (Batman: Dark Knight Returns & Year One, Sin City, 300, many other greats), Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo), and numerous others including Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Come in Alone, Authority), who said:

"...revoultionary....Lone Wolf & Cub changed the medium of comics the way Akira Kurosawa changed film."

 

-The first 12 volumes of the American editions have painted covers by Frank Miller & Lyn Varley, 13-18 feature art by Bill Sienkiewicz (the unique abstract artist who hit the mainstream; his art's seen in Daredevil), and 19- the current volume painted by Matt Wagner (Mage, Bluntman & Chronic).

 

-Sadly, the now-legendary artist of the series, Goseki Kojima, passed away early 2000, but before passing, said this of his work on the series:

"I always say, you have to create drama - even when you draw a tree or a stone."
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Lizard - Yeah, it's the only real compaint i have. There's indeed an amzing amount of detail in those frames, but it can be hard on the eyes late at night.

The first volume is now available in a full sized hardback, im told. Also, a chunk of the series was printed years ago (by "First Comics" i believe) in full-size comic book form. That might help, but they went under after translating what i believe was between 1/4 - 1/3 of the series.

Again, i was recovering from laser eye surgery and managed to get used to it, give it time.

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Well I started reading last night and I'm hooked. There is a lot of detail going on - I love how the story can still develop without any dialogue at all sometimes, and you don't miss it. I really liked the assassination in the river bit, and how you're reminded of important little details (like the victim removing his pistol) later. Good stuff.

 

God help me, each volume is £7.50 (About $12 though I'm sure you all knew the rate). And there's lots of them.

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Volume 25: Perhaps in Death (shisan) came out over here yesterday; damn good, cant believe it went so quick, few months left till the big finale. Even the pacing of the final act is amazing; Ellis is right in saying one reads this and feels this is how many more American books should be written. I admire a writer who can take the manh slow points and really shine with them; sometimes the calms before the storm are even more memorable here.

But yeah Lizard, id rather not think of how much ive spent on this book so far either. Im just grateful its cheaper than the average trade.

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Ill look it up & PM you so not to spoil anythin here.

The focus of the last few volumes has been Ogami's rival, the charactrization of the antagonist is unlike the books I've read before, and got even better in the last volume.

I'm going to be very sorry to see this series end, but cant wait to see the last few chapters.

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So - Lizard & SOF seem to enjoy what theyve read so far, and KOS should soon be caught up on the seires.

I dug the older volumes outta storage so TodDawg540 could read them, so hopefully there'll be more reaction here. Wish i couldve had Junker & some more Miami folk get in on it; i admit, even at $9 a book, catching up on the series can be pricy.

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Just an announcement: TopDawg540 should be almost 10 books into this series by now, im sure he'll post here when he has a chance with his own review thus far.

Just thought it was worth mentioning that a man with many other books on his plate opted to read a 3,000+ page series, and he's goijng through it like there's no tomorrow. Cant wait to see his reaction by the end of book 10.

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Yup, now you know how I feel...3 books left, and again the last one ironically comes out when ill be in Japan... :D

Ok so its 9,000+ pages apparently, but really doesnt feel like that much...looking back, even the solo stories of his son Daigoro are great. Im running out of ways to compliment this amazing series.

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  • 2 months later...

Well folks, book 28 made it out today, its title revised a few times, too. The ending...fucking hell, there's no way i can say anything about it, now can I?

But it kept is usual high form the whole book through: great characterization, levles of drama I haven't seen much in cinema, and of course a great deal of action.

Another cool highlight is how Koije's actually manages to build more tension & suspense in the final book than the last few, which was a feat in itself.

Kojima's art...christ, the watercolors in this final volume (you know, the first few pages of each story are done that style, some extra ones here too) deserve an artbook of some kind; the emotional intensity in some of his painted images here were, well...stunning, to be honest.

It's not often final acts of great stories manage to keep their pace and still end nearly this well. Like Preacher, I'm very sad to see this one end, but damn what an ending.

I only hope Dark Horse puts out an art book of some kind, or perhaps hardcovers one day - though the series didn't come cheap even at $10 a pop, I'dve payed a lot more than that. (On a side note to those interested - the famous "Baby cart series" of Lone Wolf movies done in Japan - the good ones, from what I've read - are finally being released on DVD next march or so, I'll be sure to post a review here).

In the end: One of the greatest pieces I've read, graphic or not. Those who manage to wander into the nearby area are highly encouraged to read my copies, wish I couldve shared it more back in Miami.

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I am dishonoured as a ronin and Kogi Kaishakunin to say I've not read past vol 18 or so, I've bought up to the penultimate vol 27 with the last one held for me 30 miles away, damnit, I'm buying my now lost vol 16 again and reading from scratch as I've always promised myself I would do...no spoilers, I'ma gonna read the lot through, in one sitting on a day off if possible!

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  • 3 weeks later...

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