Writer: Shamik Dasgupta
Artist: Abhishek Singh, Ashwin Chikerur (colors)
Published by: Virgin Comics
Ramayan 3392 AD as a title is in a very novel and rather difficult position. On one hand, there are readers who have little or absolutely no knowledge about the original Ramayana, and on the other hand, there are those who, well, who are like me (or are even more Ramayana-ed than myself). "Newbies" might read about the Ramayana (on the net or elsewhere) and take this title solely as a mythological comic, a comic telling of that story and subsequently turn away from it even before reading a single issue. At the same time, the veterans might feel put off (offended even) at the way this comic differs from the Ramayana they have read or seen on the TV shows and/or movies. I do believe this can be termed as a catch-22 situation.
Even though both of them, the newbie and the veteran, are right in their place, there is more to this Ramayana than just the one it is inspired from, a lot more. For example, last issue had Rama exiled for fourteen years and although this specific event is found in the original Ramayana too, the way it comes to be couldn’t be more different if it was Dashrath (Rama’s father and king) who was sent into exile instead of Rama. Deemed a traitor and punished by the "Gods," Rama leaves his home and kingdom and doesn’t return (to the pages of the comic) until the second half of this issue.
The first half involves Laksman and the old man he runs into, or rather the old man who saves him from certain death. As we learn later on, since Rama’s leaving, King Dashrath has left the mortal plane (i.e. died). As with the original Ramayana, in this one too the King was unable to bear the separation of his oldest and quite clearly favorite son. With the king gone, the council undergoes some major "factional" changes and in the events that follow, Laksman find himself on the run (to save his life from the assassins sent after him). It is from these same assassins that the mysterious old man saves him.
Regarding who this man is, even though Laksman makes fun of him he realizes by the end of the issue that this is no other than Vishwamitra. THE Vishwamitra. There isn’t much revealed about him here, but it is more than clear this chap is a BIG deal.
Finding Rama by chance (whom both Laksman and Vishwamitra were searching for), Vishwamitra tells Rama that he is special and that he is more than..., well..., just a blue skinned under exile ex-Prince. With an interesting placement of Guha (another character drawn from the original/inspiring Ramayana), Rama agrees to Vishwamitra’s proposal/request.
As for the artwork, there isn’t much to say about it that I haven’t said in my reviews of the previous issues. There is a mature feel to it and with a severe dearth of female characters in this issue (except for the odd panel or two), the noir style and the "masculine" ambience that it creates is even more pronounced. Here’s hoping that Sita shows up soon.
Conclusion: Even though some things are still "in the air," I am getting settled with this particular Ramayana. A smooth ride it isn’t, but an interesting one, it sure is turning out to be.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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