SAMURAI JACK #1
Written by Jim Zub
Art by Andy Suriano
Release Date: October 23, 2013
I was a huge fan of the early 2000s Samurai Jack cartoon. I have the entire series run on DVD. In concept, Samurai Jack was an animated mash-up of Akira Kurasawa, Sergio Leone, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, but the series would incorporate any bit of international folklore, stylistic reinvention, or cinematic technique that allowed it to tell another story. It was by turns funny, heartbreaking, and almost shockingly violent. (While its bad guys were usually robots, and thus spurted oil instead of blood, even Tarantino could learn a thing or two from series creator Genndy Tartakovsky.)
As you might expect, I was more than a little pleased to learn that IDW would be launching a new comic for my beloved Jack, who hasn’t seen a new story since the cartoon ended back in 2004. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, was quite a long time ago, and right about the same time that The X-Files, another property relaunched this year as an IDW comic, was canceled.
Laying aside the somewhat unsettling signs of a trend in late Gen X-er, early Millennial nostalgia, how exactly does Samurai Jack hold up?
On the whole, not too badly. Jim Zub and Andy Suriano bring a lot of the same imaginative character design and the over-the-top mix of action and humor that made the cartoon work. There’s no way for a comic to incorporate the way in which the TV version of Aku’s characterization was built on actor Mako’s inimitable voice work, so I can’t really hold its absence against Zub and Suriano. And at the very end, the creators capture the way in which Jack’s sense of honor is recognized even in the darkest, most twisted corners of Aku’s depraved world.
The one thing I haven’t seen yet that could really make Samurai Jack a standout comic would be if its creators find a way to incorporate the cartoon’s often bold use of silence and purely visual storytelling. (For an example of what I’m talking about, look at Tomasi and Gleason’s wordless Batman and Robin #18. Once Samurai Jack re-establishes its own particular character and emotional reference points, this is the kind of technique we should see the title use frequently.)
Still, Zub and Suriano have the right tools at their disposal, and their decision to send Jack on a quest for the scattered strands of the Rope of Eons gives his story a welcome sense of direction that can carry readers from issue to issue.
Is the comic quite as magical as the cartoon? No. Well, not yet anyway. But it’s good to have Jack back again, in whatever form we can get him.