Shi No Kage #5
Blackbox Comics 2021
Written by Neil Davis
Illustrated & Lettered by Gus Mauk
Coloured by Michael Yakutis
As Hachiro recovers from the ambush laid by Eichi and The Red Hand, new allies help him to heal and unravel the truth about the events that led up to the betrayal at his village. Including the roles played by his former samurai brother's and the fate of his mentor, Kioshi.
I love that this series lends itself so naturally to drama, intrigue and action because of where and when the story is set. Samurai are usually portrayed a certain way here however we see them portrayed as men, fallible and human, and it makes a huge difference in how we see and enjoy this. Yes they are supposed to be above reproach and not concerned with money or power, they live to serve their liege, and yet here we see this ideal in some and in others it is shattered into a million pieces and because of their very nature it’s concealed and secret so it is hard for some to believe that it could happen. Plus this is a time when clans vie for power and the machinations and side dealings so wonders in fleshing this world out even further. It is a very strong and honest look at life that many westerners may not be familiar with.
I adore the way that this is being told. The story & plot development that we see through how the sequence of events unfold as well as how the reader learns information are presented exceptionally well. The character development that we see through the narration, the dialogue, the character interaction as well as how we see them act and react to the situations and circumstances which they encounter does a magnificent job with these ever changing and evolving personalities. The pacing is excellent and as it takes us through the pages revealing more and more of the story the more in depth we want to see these events that have unfolded.
I am very much liking the way that we see this being structured and how the layers within the story continue to emerge, grow, evolve and strengthen. I am also liking the way we see these layers open up new avenues to be explored. Personally I want to see more of that meeting and more of Eichi and when he planned on his betrayal, but it is these moments and more that add so much depth, dimension and complexity to the story. How we see everything working together to create the story’s ebb & flow as well as how it moves the story forward are impeccably handled.
I’m a huge fan of the interiors here as well. The linework is clean, crisp and sharp while the way we see the varying weights and techniques being utilised to create the detail within the work that we see is extraordinarily well rendered. The way that backgrounds are utilised and how they enhance and expand the moments as well as work within the composition of the panels to bring out the depth perception, sense of scale and the overall sense of size and scope to the story. The utilisation of the page layouts and how we see the angles and perspective in the panels shows a remarkably talented eye for storytelling. The various hues and tones within the colours being utilised to create the shading, highlights and shadow work shows a stellar understanding of how colour works.
I’m really impressed with this book. I am really very impressed with the way that this is being told in regard to the fact that it doesn’t feel like we are being told a story and it does feel as if the characters are chronicling their lives for us. It isn’t an easy feat to accomplish either and Neil does a magnificent job conveying to the reader. The writing is exceptional while the characterisation is superb and these interiors are bringing it all to life beautifully.