Lord Takeyama

Written by Shane L. Amaya
Art by Bruno D’Angelo
48 pages, black and white
Published by Terra Major

What is it about the samurai era of Japan that entrances so many people? Maybe it’s the code of honor that was famously practiced during that time. Maybe it’s the weapons and battles of the time period, so similar yet different from our own. Maybe it’s the myths and legends of Japan that often go hand-in-hand with this earlier time. In the case of Lord Takeyama, writer Shane L. Amaya doesn’t seem to take any chances and uses all three to great effect.

Jiro was once in Lord Takeyama’s service, fighting for him at the battle of Konoe. Now he is content to provide for his family, and to hunt the fox spirit that impregnated his daughter Ichi. Lord Takeyama is dying, now, and Jiro finds himself with a special urgency to finish this last task before it is too late.

This is the first I’ve read of Amaya’s writing, but I was really happy with what I saw. Lord Takeyama does a good job of mimicking the storytelling of feudal Japanese stories. Amaya strips down the narration to a bare minimum, keeping Jiro’s thoughts primarily hidden from the reader so you have to pay attention to his actions. Jiro’s motivations still shine through, though, and the story of the hunt keeps the reader interested in what under lesser hands might have come across as repetitious.

Bruno D’Angelo primarily draws Lord Takeyama with heavy black inks, providing a stark, cold look to the comic. It’s a very attractive look, bringing to mind other works like Lone Wolf and Cub without appearing derivative. At the same time, the flashbacks are painted in graywashes, appearing sparingly throughout the book with an added richness and explosion of detail that Jiro’s current life lacks in its starkness. The storytelling of the book itself is really well done, one of the few books that seems to really understand how to use a double-page spread of panels. When Jiro spots the fox spirit, for instance, the length of the panels running across both pages lets D’Angelo convey a sense of sneakiness to the reader, with Jiro’s body spread across both the grasslands and the page itself as it keeps close to the ground. It’s a very carefully thought out books artistically, even down to the cover which stands out in its simplicity while cleverly working the profile of the fox spirit into the symbol of Lord Takeyama himself.

Lord Takeyama is a handsome book, both in story as well as art. With the attention to detail as well as keeping the bigger picture alive as a sweeping historical drama, Amaya and D’Angelo have made sure that I’ll want to read more of their comics. I suspect you will want to as well. Lord Takeyama is on sale at better comic book stores everywhere.

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