in Jean-Paul Deshong’s Sons of Fate (Origins) a samurai master is shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and after a run-in with the local tribesmen (and a jaguar) takes on the tutelage of a young village boy who he teaches the way of Bushido. Can this clash of cultures help turn the boy into a samurai master and can the master give the boy the education he could never offer his own son?
Publisher: Jean-Paul Deshong
Writer: Jean-Paul Deshong
Artist: Jean-Paul Deshong
Price: £1.49 for #1, £2.49 for #2 & £2.99 for #3 from ComiXology
Jean Paul Deshong’s Sons of Fate (Origins) transports us back to 17th century Japan for a tale of a Japanese general and samurai master, Daiki Jinjaku, who is shipwrecked off the coast of Africa while on a mission to open new trade routes for his expanding nation. Having been washed ashore on the coast of Africa he reminisces about the family he has left behind (including his son Omo who is desperate to grow up to follow in his father’s footsteps), and then develops an unlikely relationship with a young tribal boy, Kamau, who he rescues from a jaguar attack and teaches the way of Bushido. When the boy’s tribal leaders learn of what he is being taught they ask Daiki to teach them the warrior ways, but when he refuses Daiki has to defend himself against Kamau’s elders before fighting off the neighbouring tribe and their European allies who join the fight with devastating results.
The notion of a samurai master training an unlikely apprentice may not seem the most startlingly original premise for a comic, but Deshong’s mix of Oriental and African settings make for a refreshing take on this story – it is much than the usual ‘mystic master defends monastery from evil invaders’ martial arts tale for sure. With well thought out characters and a complex and emotive back story, from the first flashback scenes of Daiki’s life back home, we can tell that Deshong has a very definite idea of where his story is heading as he creates the parallels between Daiki’s son who tries to be like his absent father and his reluctantly accepted apprentice Kamau. All this is backed with plenty of historical and spiritual exposition which gives the whole book a generous dose of Eastern spirituality with the familiar martial arts themes of honour and revenge helping to flesh out the characters motives and actions.
Unfortunately by adding this layer of spiritualism and philosophy to the story it means there is often an excessive amount of words on the page, which can make the story feel muddled and lose focus. When combined with some slightly disjointed lettering (a mix of font styles and box tints for the various characters from different cultures would really help) and some grammatical errors, it takes away from what is otherwise a well produced product. We also found the ease with which African tribesmen and a 17th century Japanese General could understand each other rather frustrating, which again took us out of the sense of believability which all that exposition had attempted to create.
Renaissance man Deshong also provides the artwork for Sons of Fate (Origins) and has a swirling and swooping style, reminiscent at times of early Greg Capullo, mixing traditional US comics style with a Japanese/Manga edge. This flowing style works especially well for this shipwreck scene at the beginning or the battle scene with the jaguar, however an over use of lines on some of the shading makes characters blend into the background at times. As does the heavy use of computerised colouring which blends the foreground and backgrounds together more often than not, rather than helping characters to stand out. Instead they often end up disappearing into the backgrounds of scenes instead of leaping out of them.
With the story coming to a blood-soaked conclusion at the end of issue #3, the adventure of Kamau is set to hopefully continue, retaining enough interest to sustain the characters in future books. As a prequel or intro to a more wide-reaching series, Sons of Fate (Origins) does a great job of setting the scene and establishing characters for the long-run and so we hope that with a bit more polish a full blown Sons of Fate series could develop into something very honourable indeed.