Editor’s Note: The third issue of Highlander: Way of the Sword arrives in stores this Wednesday, February 27.
Bruce Logan: 4.5 Bullets
Christopher Power: 3.5 Bullets
Caryn A. Tate: 3 Bullets
Bruce Logan: 4.5 Bullets
Exclamation: “It all comes down to the (sword) blade!”
Explanation: Conner MacLeod lost his sword in battle a couple of centuries ago, and Highlander: Way of the Sword shows him trying to get it back. The sword is important to Conner because it once belonged to his mentor and fellow immortal, Ramirez. However, as revealed in the second issue there is someone else who desires the sword about as much as Conner and who too is ready to do anything for it, even things that Conner won’t.
Examination (Story): The basic premise is a simple one. However, as the story development shows in its simplicity lies its brilliance. With every Highlander story it all comes down to the blade of a sword. Then again, what else can be expected from a millennia long tale of a bunch of immortal guys n’ gals duking it out for the elusive prize? What makes it funnier is that none of them knows what the damn prize is going to be.
It’s always the sword.
Highlander: Way of the Sword it actually is about a sword or rather THE sword. It is the sword and its affect on people, both mortal and immortal, that is the core of the story. By affect I don’t mean that it is cursed or something, even though it might be, but rather its importance to the interested parties. For Conner the importance is two prong: For one, it was given to him by Ramirez, the man who taught him the ABCs of what it means to be an immortal and got him started on the journey to the “there can only be one” prize. Secondly, the sword is everlasting. For the immortal who have everything and watch everyone wither and/or die around them, the steel of the blade keeps them company through their life and lasts beyond it.
If the above bit about the sword seemed a bit heavy then blame that on Conner’s internal monologue. And since he is the narrator of the story, there is a quite a bit of internal monologue. Moreover, given the romantic developments taking placing within these two issues, the human relations and emotional angle is all the more poignant.
Look forward to future issues shedding light on another important aspect: that of the villain. Even though the story kicks off with an appearance of the Kurgan, one of Conner’s oldest baddies, it is another, a mortal who is set to be the big-bad of WotS.
Examination (Art): As much as I enjoyed the story and writing, I absolutely loved the artwork. It’s got everything: detailed pencils, solid inks, full colors. Every. Thing. It has more than enough enticements for the action and T&A aficionados. And for those who don’t like overt T&A or too much gore, they too can rest easy for in both cases it is done rather tastefully. Well, except for the beheadings towards the start of the second issue. Even if the story isn’t to your liking, the art alone is reason enough to give this series a go.
Proclamation: Story. Writing. Artwork. Highlander: Way of the Sword gets three (for three) thumbs-up!!
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
Christopher Power: 3.5 Bullets
Garfield: “You talk funny Nash. Where you from?”
Nash: “Lots of different places.”
These two lines for me epitomize the great potential of the Highlander storyline. There are simply hundreds of interesting stories that can be told about a person who has lived four and a half centuries. This potential has sometimes been met by epic story telling, as in the first movie, and other times has been lost to miscues that ranged from poor continuity to space aliens.
This is why I was so excited to see that Way of the Sword was focusing on Conner Macleod. While I enjoy stories about Duncan Macleod, he has been pretty much completely covered in the TV series and movies. I felt that Conner’s life has never really been explored thoroughly or, when it was touched on, terribly well. So how does this series work to fill this gap?
The opening scenes of the first issue provide more context to the rivalry between Conner and Kurgan. The Kurgan, one of my favourite villains, is depicted perfectly during the opening fight scenes on the naval vessels: sinister and ruthless. The art solidly depicts faces that are clearly recognizable as Christopher Lambert and the unforgettable Clancy Brown. The closing of this battle, depicting the Kurgan walking across the ocean floor, is a nice nod to the original movie. I was particularly keen on the idea that the Kurgan took Macleod’s sword, a final insult after killing his brother Ramirez.
Indeed, the theme in this book seems to be the following the sword through history. By the second issue two Russian women steal the sword from Kurgan. While I like this idea of following the sword, I wanted to see more about Conner’s past linked to the present day story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we are going to get a lot of that. This is not a case of bad story telling, just an expectation that I had that came from the opening sequence focusing on Conner’s past.
However, in the present day storyline we get to see Russell Nash do something that he was only rumoured to do: being an antique collector. Using his contacts in France, he is drawn to Paris for an auction of Ramirez’s sword. In particular, I like that it is just an average guy who notices the sword and contacts Nash. The thing I didn’t like is the ludicrousness of the sword being sold in a café. I mean, even if it is a normal “every day” vintage Japanese sword, it is not something a collector is just going to carry about with him and cut a deal in a diner.
There are four subplots moving throughout the story aside from the quest for the recovery of the sword:
- We are presented with a two-bit villain who is pursuing the prize, and subsequently Macleod’s head. This doesn’t seem to connect directly to the sword, which is a bit strange.
- We are treated an appearance of Sunda, the man who survives to meet Conner in New York for the Gathering. It was a scene that was written well, fitting the same spirit and dialogue that Sunda had in the original movie.
- There is a torrid one-night stand that seems to go no-where. The inner dialogue connected to the scenes connected with this plot re-iterate themes from the movie about love stretching through time beyond mortality. It is quaint, but it just doesn’t ring that true given everything we know about Conner. He would probably sleep with the woman, but I do not see it as being in his character to be expecting his world-view to change over night because of it. In the movies Conner felt as if he had found his place in the world and understood how important the prize is to it. This is particularly true from when he took other young immortals under his wing, like Duncan, to grant them the wisdom of his own years of experience.
- There is the story line of the heir of the family who made Ramirez’s sword.
It is this last story point that causes the most quibbles, and presents the most danger for this book. In this plot line the big continuity problems are introduced. In the original movie the sword represented a massive jump in knowledge about Japanese sword craft. Its existence would disprove long held ideas about when the Japanese began to make folded blades. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that the heirs of the original sword smith would know about this sword. However, there are an awful lot of other people who seem to know about this sword, and the family name it carries. That pretty much blows apart the entire driving point behind this book: the sword. It is supposed to be secret. It is supposed to be moving through history, almost unnoticed, connecting people and events through time. At least that was my feeling from the scenes that come before the reveal of the heir apparent.
Another small quibble I have with the story is that the rule regarding mortals seeing immortal business is not held to; there are people all over the fight scenes.
The art does a good job of carrying the beauty of Paris, right from the smallest café with quaint little tables and small well maintained hedges, to the awe of Notre Dame in the background. I was surprised by the choice of Paris, as the television series spent a lot of time there, but it just doesn’t get tiresome for communicating old world charm, which fits for immortals.
I have already mentioned that the likenesses from the movie are very convincing. The relative heights and sizes are correct, and the new characters are distinct and identifiable. The artist draws incredibly beautiful women. Elizabeth is simply a heart-breaker (and to all you aspiring comic artist out there, look at this book to see how to properly draw cleavage, both dressed and undressed).
I have a couple of small quibbles with the art: there is something wrong with the colour of the blood, or in the way the blood spatters … or something. I can’t put my finger on it, but the blood just doesn’t look right. Finally, the depiction of the quickening looks really static, not the type of dynamic motion that it should have.
As a Highlander fan, I enjoyed this book. There are quibbles here and there, but that is really what they are: quibbles. The writing and the art captures the immersive quality that is the Highlander universe, something I appreciate greatly.
Caryn A. Tate: 3 Bullets
The good thing about this series is that it feels, for the most part, like a piece of the Highlander legacy; it could be a chapter from one of the films, or a missing episode of the TV series featuring Connor rather than Duncan.
The bad thing is that there’s not a lot of substance here.
In issues #1 & 2, Connor MacLeod is on the search for his mentor Ramirez’s long lost sword—a katana with a dragon head on the hilt (as any fans of the films or the TV show will know). A friend of his discovers the sword’s whereabouts—it’s been appropriated by a collector, and Connor travels back to Europe from the States to get it back.
A pretty simple storyline, but a decent one. The narrative itself does have the material that you would most expect from the title—there are swashbuckling swordfights, quickenings, romance. The contrast is that while it has what you’re expecting, it therefore doesn’t have much that you’re not expecting. I would have liked to see a lot more engaging moments that really pull the reader in, rather than more of the same. As much as I love the films and the show, those have already been done, and I would have really enjoyed seeing some things that are more out of the ordinary.
But the main issue I had was with the dialogue. The majority of it is fine, but there are several sections of discourse between the characters that threw off the flow of the tale. Sometimes it was a cliché, sometimes it was just something silly that didn’t sound like what a person would actually say. Unfortunately, dialogue carries a lot of weight in any story, whether it’s in a comic or other medium.
But the good things are definitely there too. There are some good, solid moments that help show us exactly the kind of person Connor MacLeod is—that this is a man who is willing to travel halfway across the world and search, possibly in vain, for the weapon that belonged to his mentor. We’re also shown that he is a person who has been severely emotionally wounded by the life he leads, and how badly he still wants to love and be loved. This struggle is one of the solid aspects of this book.
The art is clear and fits the style of the Highlander mythos well; the likenesses are extremely well done. Connor looks amazingly like Christopher Lambert, and everyone else in the comic is realistic and true to life.
All in all, a good amount of events fill each issue and make them worth picking up and spending $3 each. While they have their faults, they kind of remind me of a lot of episodes of the Highlander TV show: not excellent, but so full of fun and mythological archetypes that you really don’t mind.
What did you think of this book?
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