Lone Wolf & Cub Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Matthew Alexander
Review Date: Saturday, May 06, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Writer: Kazuo Koike / Artist: Goseki Kojima
Translated by:Dana Lewis
Adapted by:

What They Say
Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami in Japan) is acknowledged worldwide for the brilliant writing of series creator Kazuo Koike and the groundbreaking cinematic visuals of the late Goseki Kojima. Creating unforgettable imagery of stark beauty, kinetic fury, and visceral thematic power, the epic samurai adventure has influenced a generation of visual storytellers both in Japan and in the West.

The Review
Lone Wolf and Cub is bunko sized and printed from left to right. The printing is cleanly reproduced but I was left wondering if some of the confusion I felt for a couple battle scenes were because the title is flipped. The front cover is divided in half vertically with the title on the left and a picture of the two main characters on the right. The picture shows Daigoro being pushed in his baby carriage by a bloody naginata wielding Itto as they leave a battlefield. The back cover has a description of the LWC series and a quote from Frank Miller. There is also a black and white picture of Itto with a dagger in his teeth as he carries his son, Daigoro.

There are also a few extras such as a note to the readers, a wonderful glossary of terms and a bio for both the writer and the author. The last extra is a description of feudal life during the era this story takes place, called The Ronin Report.

The artwork is very realistic and does a good job expressing authentic human characterization and Kojima uses multiple methods of drawing to convey his ideas. Most of the book is drawn in a standard black and white style and sometimes includes crosshatching for shading and movement. Some of my favorite scenes are when the artist uses what appears to be a charcoal method, resulting in masterfully executed shading. Most of the male characters have very distinctive and often grimy faces, and all the characters faces are drawn in a way that express emotions very well. The panel layout is nothing exciting, but the detail in the backgrounds and interior shots are highly detailed. Kojima also exhibits an impressive ability to translate a real sense of power into his art through the way he depicts the action scenes.

The translation is well done and the text reads smoothly with no discernable grammatical errors. I was delighted to see the translation retain honorifics and Japanese terminology for people of different classes and government titles. I think it really helps maintain a sense of realism for the English audience. The original Japanese SFX has been overlain with an English translation. The overlays are well executed considering the fair amount of retouch needed to accomplish it.

Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Itto, a samurai of the Ogami clan, is under the direct service of the Shogun. His official job is as a kaishakunin, the executioner responsible for beheading a shamed samurai or lord after they complete the initial cut to their abdomen during ritual suicide, or seppaku. On one hand it is a grisly job to be the man responsible for delivering the final blow to take a man's life, but on the other, the executioner is also the man who delivers a merciful blow to end an extremely painful and relatively slow death. Depending on the Shogun in power and how often he needs to display his power in order to keep the lords under control, a kaishakunin could be a rather busy person.

Now the Ogami have fallen from the Shogun's good graces and Itto finds himself traveling the 'assassins road' as a masterless samurai with his son Daigoro as his only traveling companion. On their path to restore the Ogami name and avenge the death of their clansmen, Itto and Daigoro accept assassination jobs and build a reputation until they become known as Lone Wolf and Cub. Itto may have picked up the mantle of full time assassin in order to achieve his goals, and this would mean he is no longer required to live by the samurai code, but he still maintains principles. He only accepts assassination jobs after full disclosure of the mission and if he decides the mark in question deserves his fate. Itto appears to have a cold calculated sense of right and wrong, probably honed by over two decades of employment as an executioner.

Lone Wolf and Cub is the story of the ronin Itto of the Ogami clan, and his very young son Daigoro. For some reason, the Ogami clan were replaced by the Yagyu clan and Itto was ordered to commit seppaku. He refuses to accept death until he has his revenge on the Yagyu. So with his toddler son in tow, Itto sets off down the path of death and destruction as an assassin for hire. The fact that Itto uses his son to help trick or distract his enemies during battle is rather interesting. It appears as if Itto has thrown his and his sons' life away so completely that if Daigoro is killed during a mission it will be of no real consequence because Daigoro will then be able to reunite with his dead mother in the afterlife. It's an interesting idea, but I think seeing what kind of man Daigoro would become, if he lives long enough, would be even more interesting. How much would living a childhood as an assassin, especially one who has seen so much graphic killing, warp a man's view of the world?

So far this story is very episodic and the style of Kojima's art has a strong cinematic feel. The art is also very powerful and lends a strong feeling of motion to the action scenes, which can be very graphic. Unfortunately, the episodic nature also gives a somewhat disjointed feel to the storytelling. For now the stories have no connection to each other and they reminded me of an American television series. But, the sheer mystery of how Itto was disgraced and how he hopes to gain his revenge has successfully sucked me into the series and I am looking forward to reading the next volume.

Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 294
ISBN: 1-56971-502-5
Size: Bunko
Orientation: Left to Right