In epic fashion, Yi Soon Shin tells the tale of a Korean Naval Admiral’s fight to save his people against invading Japanese forces. The sound of a historical comic book might not appeal to many. But Yi Soon Shin’s sprawling chapters unfold with an intriguing story about the people behind the history. And also, it’s a comic book, and therefore not a history lesson, so it’s a fun action story to boot.
Writing: Onrie Kompan
Art: Giovanni Timpano
Colors: Adriana De Los Santos
Letters: Joel Saavedra
Co-Writer/Editor: David Anthony Kraft
“A war is coming and many are going to die.” – Admiral Yi
Onrie Kompan scripted a story that weaves history into fiction in a way that does not bog down the narrative or leave it without substance. We meet Yi Soon late into the introduction of the story. Yi’s introduction is a sequence worthy of any hero. But before meeting Yi, we’re introduced to the Japanese leaders spearheading the invasion. Kompan handles the story by using dialogue and narration. It’s balanced well. Each portion of the text is offering something that advances the narrative and keeps the pace moving. During action scenes, the narration is a somber reminder of the consequences of war. The narration also serves to build the legend of Yi.
Co-Writer and editor David Anthony Kraft keeps the narrative tight and precise. Only a few moments occur when some more text could be trimmed. However, it’s important to note for readers that the dialogue in the book is not “historically accurate.” For starters, this Korean story is being told in English leading to things that might get lost in translation and it makes use of creative license. Secondly, modernisms like “man up” crop up from time to time. For readers looking for the dialogue to keep you in the 16th century at all times, Yi Soon Shin falls short. But the “modern speak” is not overused or distracting otherwise.
Giovanni Timpano is a veteran artist from Italy who works on books like Lone Ranger/Green Hornet and Cyberforce. Timpano’s style has great range, and here he marries it with something reminiscent of centuries-old oil paintings. Adriana De Los Santos provides the right mixture of colors to make this old-school style come alive. The book looks rich and it provides the comic book a gravitas that plays perfectly into the weight of the story at hand. Lines are thick, but not muddled. Colors are muted but not desaturated. Layered on the visuals is crisp lettering from Joel Saavedra. However, one gripe is the yellow text on orange background used for the narration. It can be a little intense at times and such a sharp change from the more muted feel of everything else.
Yi Soon Shin is a careful blend of history and fiction. It’s a rare feat for any story to pull off, but this comic book does so with great skill. Unofficially, this is a review of what might be considered Chapter 1 of the Yi Soon Shin story. It’s the introduction of our main character and the world he inhabits. We learn Shin’s internal and external struggles. It sets up ruthless villains, a mystery, and more. It also ends with a gruesome cliffhanger that will make you want to continue to the story of this comic book without a second thought.