reflection

Bridging the gap between traditional fable and modern story, Hitomi #1 is a stunning and highly entertaining first chapter that delivers a desperately needed perspective on the Samurai era in Western comics.
Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Letters

Review: HITOMI #1 – Sake and Vengeance

From writer HS Tak (Redshift, Boy-1) and artist Isabella Mazzanti comes a tale of vengeance from Feudal Japan in Hitomi #1. With colors by Valentina Napolitano and lettering from Rob Jones, this first issue blends the approach of Japanese folktales with that of modern storytelling techniques to create a comic that offers great social commentary while also being deeply compelling and entertaining. With a sharp script and stunning artwork, this is yet another must-read first issue out of the Image stable.

“In Feudal Era Japan a drifter with no prospects begins training in secret under Yasuke a once-famous displaced disgraced warrior as she struggles to find her place in a society entrenched in discrimination and violence.”

Writing & Plot

HS Tak combines the style of Japanese legend with that of Western comic style conventions with his script for Hitomi #1. He takes elements from modern revenge tales and combines them with the stylistic dialogue approach of Kurosawa-esque Japanese to English localization and familiar genre tropes to make something that still feels unique. Tak’s protagonist is a young drifter with designs on taking revenge against the samurai who killed her parents. This samurai we learn is Yasuke – the legendary African sword-bearer who served under Oda Nobunaga. As this chapter continues and we see more of the two characters’ respective lives, we learn this tale is more complicated than either realize. Aside from this comic’s excellent premise and outstanding dialogue sensibilities – with Tak combining modern dialogue with what feels like period-correct flowing prose to great effect – this comic’s greatest accomplishment is its needed commentary. The western world has an ignorant tendency to romanticize the samurai as honorable warriors. This perspective ignores the harm this ruling class had upon the lower working classes of Feudal Japan. From drafting poor farmers into meaningless wars to doling out absurd punishments for minor non-offenses, the samurai were in truth far from the dignified legends we often think of them as. Numerous manga over the years have demonstrated this fact, such a Lone Wolf and Cub, Inoue’s Vagabond, and Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the ImmortalHitomi is a notable rarity in Western comics – and other mediums – in how it shows the injustices perpetrated by many samurai. These elements, combined with a fiery and immediately likeable young protagonist and complex plot development, make this one of the most engaging first issues of 2022.

Art Direction

Hitomi #1’s Feudal setting and expressive cast of characters are captured beautifully by the pencils of Isabella Mazzanti and Valentina Napolitano’s coloring. Their combined style creates a comic intentionally reminiscent of an old emakimono scroll painting. Mazzanti’s attention to detail with her approach to 16th Century Japanese architecture, art, and clothing, makes this comic feel timeless. Her sequencing is also stellar, with the whole issue feeling well-balanced and expertly paced. Every other page has a spread or panel that is worthy of being in a gallery – or at least as a desktop background. Napolitano’s flat-style colors bring home the 16th century feel of this comic, with her tones having that scroll-printed appearance that makes this issue like nothing else on shelves today. The lettering from Rob Jones has a classical hand drawn look that matches the comic perfectly. His SFX work has a very distinct approach as well, with a sort of minimalist but noticeable punctuation of sound in each panel where he uses it. Overall, Hitomi #1 is a stunning comic book and an excellent representation of traditional Japanese styled art in a Western comic.

Verdict

Hitomi #1 is a compelling and thoughtful Western take on a tale of vengeance in Feudal Japan. HS Tak’s script blends classical genre sensibilities and blends them with modern style as well as great commentary to craft a story that is smart and massively engaging. The visuals from Isabella Mazzanti and Valentina Napolitano make for a beautiful rendition of classical Japanese artwork and modern sequential direction and expressiveness. This is one of the best debut issues of the year so far, so grab it when it hits shelves on October 12th!

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
Review: HITOMI #1 - Sake and VengeanceBridging the gap between traditional fable and modern story, Hitomi #1 is a stunning and highly entertaining first chapter that delivers a desperately needed perspective on the Samurai era in Western comics.