We’ve always been fascinated by the way of the Samurai. From comic character Usagi Yojimbo, to the (partial) influence of the Jedi from Star Wars and beyond, this warrior class has permeated our collective imaginations. However, when it comes to direct storytelling, the Samurai tends to hold less interest than the Ronin, their masterless counterpart. This week, I check out the first issue of J. Paul Schiek’s Hush Ronin, about a feckless masterless samurai and the man he wrongs.
Publisher: Ashcan Comics Publishing
Writer: J. Paul Schiek,
Artist: J. Paul Schiek
Price: Available to read online here
Hush Ronin tells the story of a roguish fallen samurai who is forced from his drunken stupor when a rival warrior, Abayo Roku, and his companions arrive at the village watering hole to confront the eponymous Ronin’s for the theft of Roku’s horse. Unfortunately, things do not go Roku’s way when the slighted swordsman and his entourage are soundly defeated by the Ronin, who then proceeds to escape with another horse. However, while the Ronin continues on his journey of drink and debauchery, Roku is taken in by the mysterious Kitsune, who offers the fallen man his chance for revenge against his enemy…
Pulling double duty on this title, creator J. Paul Schiek has formed an intriguing and energetic story which feels incredibly well researched in its depiction of the Samurai culture. Schiek has written the story to be really nicely paced, never feeling too slow or overly rushed, even during the action scenes, while the plotting feels incredibly cinematic in it’s layout, as though it has been ripped directly from some of the great Samurai/martial arts films like Seven Samurai, 47 Ronin or Hero. It’s characterisation of the lead character, the ‘Ronin’, feels a little off as his belligerent personality is very against type to what I consider a samurai, fallen or otherwise to be. However, it is an interesting twist on a cliched character trope and has me intrigued about his backstory and the events which brought him to this place.
Meanwhile, Schiek’s artwork perfectly compliments his scripting as his gorgeous, almost classical style, presents the world of these Samurai in a very realistic fashion. I found this to be especially wonderful in the depiction of the various action sequences, like the early sword fight or (my personal favourite) the kinetic opening sequence of Roku entering the village cut against the serene sake drinking of the Ronin, both of which looked incredibly genuine (particularly the sword fighting as a former practitioner). As such, this further emphasised to me of Schiek’s research in this title. Unfortunately the artwork doesn’t manage to maintain this high quality throughout, and I found the opening dark panels which depicted the supernatural/mystical scenes between Roku and Kitsune a little confusing, although also quite haunting. That said, this is of little overall detriment as the final pages, as well as all the scenes prior to those, are clear enough to be enjoyed and offer up all the intrigue about what comes next.
Indeed, by the end of this issue what comes next is a major sticking point in my mind, as is what came before. Schiek has left lots of questions in the air regarding his world and its characters beyond the prior mentioned Ronin’s backstory; Who is Kitsune and what is her reason for her alliance against the Ronin? Are the reasons behind Roku’s need for vengeance truly what he says? What is the final creature in Roku’s journey ,is it a Lion? And why does the gate look like the gate to the Eighth City from the Iron Fist comics? All of these notions now consume my thoughts post read.
Hush Ronin is a truly engrossing and action packed story which, despite a few rough edges, is incredibly well written, with some gorgeously rendered visuals. The issue ends much as it began; with little information about what is happening, but Schiek has deftly created a tale so good that I find myself heavily intrigued about how it may continue. I just hope it isn’t a long wait before I find out.