A review copy was provided by Jim Zub.
Samurai Jack is one of my all time favorite cartoon series, as I’ve discussed before. Sadly, the series ended without a proper resolution, leaving Jack’s quest hanging despite fan interest. Luckily, IDW Publishing started releasing their own Samurai Jack series not too long ago, which seeks to continue the story for the series’ fans while simultaneously allowing a new crop of people to enter this amazing fantasy world.
Jack’s most recent quest follows a story arc known as “The Broken Blade,” in which Jack’s sword plays a pivotal role in his latest attempt to return to the past.
“The Broken Blade” begins with Jack’s latest attempt to return to his own time. Seeking help from Soule the Seer, Jack learns that a magic spell focused through his enchanted sword during a solar eclipse can send him into the past. Regrettably, the ritual fails, which causes Jack’s sword to lose the spirit housed within and shatter.
Disheartened and without a weapon, Jack wanders the land whilst hiding from the vile wizard Aku, who has realized that one of the only weapons in existence that can harm him is no more. Jack learns the origin of his weapon and faces a personal struggle as a battle with Aku looms on the horizon.
Writer Jim Zub and artists Andy Suriano and Ethen Beavers work in tandem to craft a story that reflects the original Samurai Jack. From the layouts, to the battle scenes, to the dialogue and humor, everything feels lifted from the original series. It speaks volumes to the creative team’s familiarity with the cartoon that “The Broken Blade” flows like an episode of the show itself.
Regrettably, pacing is an area of difficulty for this comic. The arc spans five issues (#11-#15) which comprise a full story. However, the middle of this arc drags slightly, and some scenes could certainly have been pared down or left out altogether. In particular, Aku’s initial appearance, while hearkening back to the tone of the original, could have been pared down by a page or so.
While I understand that one of the goals is to reflect the feel of the show, devoting a page every issue to the classic shown opening is space that could be better used on the story itself, and would do wonders in helping reduce the arc to four or even three issues. Repeated pages from the previous issue also exacerbate this problem.
Suriano’s art is another area of contention. When the man is on, he charges ahead full throttle with scenes worthy of the original animation. The fluid, frenetic battle scenes are where Suriano shines the most. However, it would be remiss not to mention the fact that the art quality takes a noticeable dive after the initial few pages of the first issue, and only seem to emerge from these doldrums around the third. These scenes contain a sketchy quality which seems more the result of haste to complete the work than a lack of skill.
This comic succeeds in two more areas. Firstly, it is written in such a way that new readers can easily understand and enjoy the story, and perhaps become new fans of Samurai Jack. Secondly, the message of this arc, that true power comes from within, is inspiring and presented in a way that is heartfelt and memorable, rather than cheesy as such concepts often are in fiction.
Samurai Jack’s “Broken Blade” art is certainly enjoyable and will please fans of the series. Zub, Suriano, and Beavers work hard to ensure that this arc resembles an episode of the original animated series. However, the arc itself is weighted down with repeated pages, overly drawn out segments, and lower quality artwork that prevents this comic from shining. The final issue is near perfect, but the problems found in the earlier sections, especially Issues #12 and #13, prevent me from giving this a higher score.
-new reader friendly
-feels like an episode of the original TV series in terms of pacing, story, dialogue, and artwork
-interesting continuation of the plot
-artwork of noticeably lower quality in the first half
-takes five issues to tell a story that could probably have fit in three
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