I am fan of both vampires and samurai. My penchant for these two genres has been kept to gaming, novels, and films. I have been a player in White Wolf’s World of Darkness since inception. The same can be said for Legend of the Five Rings. Each of these games allowed me to take on the role of either a vampire or a samurai and enjoy my time in their world. The movies I have watched to indulge my penchant for vampires has been numerous and mostly painful. Samurai cinema has been much kinder to me though. Comics is the only venue wherein I have not truly indulged in my love of vampires and samurai. I place the blame squarely on my ignorance of titles that would scratch this particular itch and my trepidation at trying anything outside of the big two.
It came as a pleasant surprise to me when I heard Aron and Paul discussing Shinku issue 5 on a recent episode of Funnybooks. They were talking about a lone samurai woman fighting a clan of vampires in modern day Japan. This was a book that combined both of these genres and it sounded like it did it well. I had to read this story. Sadly, I was unable to locate physical copies of all five issues. My local shop was kind enough to put them on order for me and I took solace in the digital copies.
I sat down to read them and devoured them in no time.
I feel like an idiot for not having read this book before now. Ron Marz and Lee Moder have taken two of my favorite things and combined them in a fashion that is amazing. The story and art of this book combine in such a fashion that makes it difficult form me to decide just where to begin in telling you about this book.
Words are my forte so it is wiser for me to tell you about the story first. Shinku is the story of the last samurai of the Tadataka clan and her war against the Yagyu clan which is comprised solely of vampires. The story begins, oddly enough, with a gaijin in a night club. Heis there at the insistence of his Japanese friend who’s mission appears to be getting him laid. Nothing can go wrong with this plan, right? Davis, the aforementioned gaijin, approaches a beautiful woman dressed in a goth style and is quickly escorted out to the back ally for some entertainment. Our hero, Shinku, rides to rescue on her iron horse decapitating the vampire before she has a chance to end the life of the dumfounded Davis. He is quickly whisked away and taken into the world that Shinku inhabits. It is his ignorance that provides for an excellent vehicle for exposition. Having no time for pleasantries, Shinku quickly explains the world that Davis never knew existed. How the Yagyu clan, composed of vampires, now controlled Japan from the darkness after defeating her clan several hundred years prior. All this within the first issue. This firmly set this book’s hook into me. What follows in the next four issues is the beginning of the struggle of Shinku and her two retainers to destroy all vampires and confront Asano, Daimyo of the Yagyu clan.
I loved how the story of the samurai interweaves throughout this tale of vampire hunting. It is the second issue of the book that depicts this the best. This issue open with the question of what is the meaning of samurai. The words tell us what it means to be samurai while the pictures show us what it means to fail as samurai. Mr. Marz then brings us to the modern day and shows us how Shinku embodies this definition even though she has no master to serve. He uses the meeting of Asano and his vampiric underlings to provide a stark contrast to the determination and strength of a true samurai. It is not until the end of the issue where the questions is asked “What happened to those who abused their position as samurai?” It is here that we are both told and shown that one would be dispatched to end the embarrassment that such an offender created. We learn that Shinku’s ancestor, Daimyo of the Tadataka clan, was just such a samurai and so is she. Very powerfully artistry right there.
The art on this book is gorgeous. Lee Moder handles the swings from ancient Japan to modern with aplomb. The scenes set in ancient japan capture the feel of antique Japanese art without crossing the line into a cartoon caricature. The colors on the book are also excellent. The juxtaposition of the bright Japanese night life with the gray pallor of the vampires was very effective. this contrast is used most effectively in the combat sequences. The flashes of red following Shinku’s blade stand out even more against a backdrop of gray vampire flesh. The covers themselves are just astonshing. I’ve put the cover of Issue one at the top of this postand highly recommend checking out the others.
The first five issues of Shinku were incredible. The story was fast-paced and engrossing and the artwork wonderful. I highly recommend picking up this book. I already have a spot picked out on my shelf for the trade.