Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Matthew Smith (p), Mark Pennington (i)
Is Ron Marz following the age-old Grant Morrison/Dave Sim route of placing himself in his stories all of sudden? The reason I ask is the appearance in this issue of The Storyteller, a mysterious samurai pushing a handcart (in a neat puncture of expectations the cart is revealed to contain…no, not his child, but his meagre possessions, cups, bottles, scrolls and clothes it looks like. This Storyteller reveals to the protagonist of The Path, Obo-San, that not only does he know his name, he knows his real name, he knows about the sigil mark, he knows about the Weapon from Heaven used to destroy the invading army last issue, and he wants to know what happens next.
OK, ok, so it’s not Ron Marz being depicted here, it’s probably one of The First or some such ilk, keeping track of what has been and what will be going on in the land of Nayado in general, and with Obo-San specifically. The pair chat about Emperor Mitsumune and what has happened to him – it’s obvious that a choice is facing Obo-San, he’s going to have to do something about the Emperor, but he doesn’t want to rule Nayado himself, and he’s torn between he memories of Mitsumune in his kinder days, and the fact of what Mitsumune has become since his resurrection.
Meanwhile, the emperor of Shinacea is informed of his army’s massacre and decides to just give up – which raises the question of what will happen with this female-disguised power that has been assisting him…if he’s no longer part of the story, will she defect to Mitsumune’s side? For his part, Mitsumune wants the Weapon of Heavens badly – no doubt to rule the world bwah – hah – ha, he decides that force hasn’t worked so now is the time for stealth (if you remember, stealth was attempted via the Emperor of Shinacea in an earlier issue and failed miserably too).
Actually, more than anything this issue acts as an introductory piece to the characters and some of the backstory of Nayado, Obo-San and the Emperor Mitsumune. Much is told in flashback, there’s a lot of exposition from the main players, and nothing really happens – it’s a clearing the board, laying down what has gone before, in preparation for the next story arc. Which makes me wonder whether this is a hastily arranged fill-in issue? Matthew Smith provides competent art, but there are a lot of shadows and it does look a little rushed at time – Bart Sears is back next month, with the regularly scheduled issue nine? You see, if this was intended to be an introductory issue then (a) why wasn’t it designated one of the “Key Issues”, designed to serve this purpose?; and (b) its placement three issues into the second trade collection is curious to say the least!
In any event, the extended dialogue does not harm the book in any way, it’s helpful in clarifying one or two points about events so far, and it means that this issue is inadvertently an excellent point to start reading the book. It’s one of the top three or four CG books at the moment, give it a look.
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