Overview

Okko: The Cycle of Water #1

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Okko: The Cycle of Water #1

Credits

  • Words: Hub (Translated by Edward Gauvin)
  • Art: Hub
  • Inks: Hub
  • Colors: Hub & Stephan Pecayo
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Price: $3.95

Archaia’s latest period genre opus follows a demon-hunting ronin and his eclectic band of retainers, and it’s a tale well worth the telling – and the reading.

Imported from France, Okko is the first published comics work by European auteur "Hub" (Humbert Chabuel, one of the main art designers alongside Moebius for Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element), and The Cycle of Water is the first four-issue storyarc of the larger Okko epic. Issue #1 opens with a natural introduction to Okko’s band of not-so-merry men – Noburo, an overlarge swordsman who hides behind a mask, and Noshin, the "Sake Monk" (read: the religious drunk). The duo is introduced during a spot of downtime as Noburo meditates amongst geishas and Noshin snoozes amongst drink. Yet before too many pages have passed, the brothel is laid siege by unknown assailants, and a battle between the attackers and our heroes is quickly underway. Before the issue is out, a rescue mission is launched, readers get a good gander at the abilities of both Okko and his men, and a fourth member – the young child brother to one of the kidnapped prostitutes – is added to Okko’s crew.

For an opening salvo, Okko: The Cycle of Water #1 hits all the right cues, granting a complex world, intricate though easily recognizable characters, and the beginnings of an adventure readers can care about from the strength of this sole, single issue only. The story takes place in the fictional Pajan Empire in the year 1108, the "Asagiri Era." The world itself is filled with demons that (at least thus far) fall into elemental categories, of which they can either hinder or hurt depending on their propensity toward any given human. Hub, for all his non-Asian background, manages to weave a sufficient number of identifiable staples of Anime and period samurai fiction to allow readers already familiar with such fare an effortless glide into what quickly becomes a distinguished and original backdrop for an epic that looks to blend the slam-bang wildness of Inuyasha with the more considered yet ludicrous flavor of The Mikado.

There’s plenty in Hub’s viciously supernatural-laden world to drive fans of action and horror right back to the comic store in order to subscribe and hope for a long, uninterrupted run for the book. Equally so, Hub’s decidedly European flavor brings a thematic focus on status, economy, poverty, and privilege, allowing Okko to be much more than just a comic book Onimusha – a merit that should appeal to old-school fans of period samurai dramas by the likes of Kurosawa and Masaki Kobayashi. There seems a system to all things in the world of Okko, not just politics, but also to the stranger, more preternatural side of things that is more than simply fight, fight, fight. In fact, mindless action looks to be an aspect Hub will avoid en toto; which is not to say the violence meter is low – not by a long shot. There’s bloodshed, and there’s demon hunting and demon-dealing and danger lurking within nearly every corner of the Pajan Empire’s island kingdom, and I doubt that Hub will miss covering a single inch.

Accompanying such a balanced and satisfying (if all too short) story, is Hub’s truly gripping artwork – it’s detailed to the extreme, with period-style backgrounds and character dress that just can’t be compared to the results of a monthly or bi-monthly grind found in American comics. Additionally, the panels are professionally, painstakingly laid out, and Hub’s clarity is second to none; from battles involving a dozen characters or more per two-inch panel, to colder, more haunting sequences depicting the dazzling invocations of elemental spirits, the quality and strengths inherent in Hub’s work falter not one bit. The coloring for the book is equally impeccable, covering a story that moves from blood-red dusk to blue-black midnight and from crazy action to unearthly uncanniness. In either case (and perhaps due to both existing in the same book), Hub and Stephan Pecayo deliver blatantly magnificent visual entertainment.

In sum: a synopsis tailor made for the comic book medium, a well structured tale, an insidiously intriguing world, and gorgeous artwork; Okko may fall flat on its face later into its serialization, but this first issue is just flat-out fantastic, and promises to give nothing but more of the same. There’s easily two issues worth of story and event in Okko: TCoW #1 as compared to absolutely any contemporary American comic, and quite frankly Okko manages an even higher quality of finished art extravagance. It should also be noted that the translation of dialogue and caption box by Edward Gauvin is one of the best European genre fiction has yet received in the American comic market, and the infamously stilted dialogue and prose of past imported series is happily, conspicuously missing.

Archaia has thus far proven a company with an unerring sense of quality, and they’ve yet to miss the mark on a single published title. Okko is on par with the rest of their oeuvre: Mouse Guard, Artesia, Robotika – if you liked any of those books, this is the next unputdownable series by the very same editorial two, so have at.

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