Overview

Sam Noir: Samurai Detective #1

Review

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Sam Noir: Samurai Detective #1

Credits

  • Words: Eric A. Anderson
  • Art: Manny Trembley
  • Inks: Manny Trembley
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Chapter One: Payback?s a Niche
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Sep 13, 2006

Get ready for hard-boiled bushido as the Samurai Detective hunts down the killer of the woman of his dreams.

Like all sad stories, this one starts with a dame. Jasmine. He hates the flowers but he loved her deeply. He’d been paid to watch her, to be a ghost, and he kept on eye on her for three months. But with every day, loving her a little more made the ghost a little more human. Until someone killed her. She’d come to him seeking help, but instead got three throwing stars in the back. He springs into action, offs a few ninja, and gets a name. Fuyu. More sword fodder fall to his blade, because that’s what he does, while the name Fuyu is like the scent of prey in the wind. But soon Fuyu will know his name. Sam Noir, Samurai Detective.

The Way of the Samurai is as much about style as it is about substance. The grace and precision with which he wields his sword is merely an extension of the grace and precision with he lives every aspect of his life. In this we find one of the strengths of Eric Anderson’s writing—Sam Noir loves exactly as he kills, and though he’s a ronin, both his love and his death dealing are part of The Way. Anderson’s characterization is rich enough that what would be conflicting aspects in other sorts of people are natural points on the same line for Sam Noir. Anderson’s other strength is his own writing style. Much of Sam Noir: Samurai Detective is text heavy, but Anderson knows his hard-boiled style and makes the reading itself compelling—not to mention witty at times—while also writing with a strong sense of visuals that integrates his words with the images very well. That said, Sam Noir: Samurai Detective, for all its narrative strengths, has a weakness—the conclusion isn’t worthy of the great build-up. It’s merely a chapter break, the weakest way to end the first installment for detective, revenge, and action-adventure stories like this one. Granted, this first issue doesn’t need a shocking cliffhanger, but what it does need is a last page that adds something else—another plot beat, layer of mystery, or an unexpected direction—that cashes in on Anderson’s solid characterization and plotting in the previous 21 pages.

But if there’s a weakness in Manny Trembley’s art style, it’s hard to find in Sam Noir: Samurai Detective. Any artist knows his or her own weaknesses, but what separates the good ones from the pack of those who aren’t there yet is a style that plays to their strengths. Sam Noir: Samurai Detective looks like nothing else on the shelves this week, or in the last year. Sure, other comics use grayscale, but Trembley takes grayscale digital art to another level where he creates and accentuates mood to greater depths of texture and richness than anything else I’ve seen using this style. Throughout this issue, Anderrson’s script develops a truly noir feel with highly expressionistic panel descriptions. Trembley knocks every one of them out of the park with lyrical framing, evocative panel constructions, light and shadow effects so well executed they’re like characters in the story, and a wonderful balance of Eastern art and Western film noir sensibilities. Sam Noir: Samurai Detective is his first comic, but already his name is on my ever-growing list of new artists to watch.

The first issue of Sam Noir: Samurai Detective is easy to love because of its style, but it will bring readers back for its remaining two issues because of its substance.

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