Friday, October 25, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Samurai Jack #1 and Blue Beetle #4

I've been saving this blog because I wanted to really talk about Samurai Jack.

I didn't even know this comic was starting until last Friday when my local comic store's Facebook page teased it. But did this thing need to happen or what?!

For those who don't know, Samurai Jack was a 52-episode story about a young samurai warrior (voiced by Phil LaMarr) being thrown into a dystopian future by evil demon wizard Aku (voiced by Mako). The entire premise (and really the only plot that extended longer than two episodes) is the samurai, later given the name Jack, trying to return to the past and stop Aku from finishing his conquest of Earth.

This was one of the greatest series of all time. The four-time Emmy winner took risks with its animation and storytelling, such as not having character outlines, keeping the characters mostly alone, choosing to tell the story with atmosphere and animation instead of the minimal dialogue, and introducing the world as-is without really going into morality besides 'tyranny is bad.'

The show would easily be the greatest animated series of all time (I'm not even sure I could say second would come close) if it wasn't for one gargantuan flaw: THERE WAS NO ENDING.

Cartoon Network decided to change its creative direction in the mid-2000s and the creative differences with creator Genndy Tartakovsky led to him leaving CN to form his own studio. (NOTE: Tartakovsky is easily the best creator CN ever employed, producing Dexter's Lab, Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy before leaving).

Anyway, enough of all that. Point is, the movie designed to finish the series has yet to materialize, and with Mako's death, the odds are not getting better. However, CN has finally reached a deal to continue the story in comic form through IDW Comics. IDW currently also owns the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise's printed books as well.

How did IDW do with writer Jim Zub and artist Andy Suriano at the helm? Pretty much amazingly, to be honest.

This felt exactly like the series did and the voice of Jack felt on point here. This is a good call. Even though the character may have to evolve in printed media, sticking to the status quo for a while is the best idea so that people get used to the style.

Likewise, the art is identical to the animation and I LOVE that. It captured the atmosphere and style of the show flawlessly and I was hooked from the shot-for-shot recreation of the old intro. I could hear LaMarr and Mako whenever their voices came into play.

If I'm being blunt, the only flaw in this book is that it's too short. Because it follows the old Jack style of minimal talking, panels go by quickly and the issue can be finished in 5-6 minutes.

Also reviewed on my audio blog (top)
One thing I want to compliment IDW on is the fact that ALL of their ads are at the end of the book. Initially, I thought I was getting ripped off by the company when so much of the book was left at the end of the story, but hey, I got to read a full story without having to unnecessarily turn the page. Why aren't all companies doing this?!

So yeah, if you can't tell, I'm freaking hooked here. I will be adding this to my pull list immediately. Dark Horse should take note with their Avatar: TLA and Star Wars comics: THIS is how you carry a franchise over to print!

If you don't know the series, buy it anyway. The necessary plot is introduced on the inside cover and because Samurai Jack never got super complex with its plot, nothing really carries over that would be confusing. If you get that a samurai is in a future world full of mutants, aliens and wizards, you're good to go.

I can not recommend this highly enough and I hope sales for this go sky high (well, for IDW standards at bare minimum).

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