Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: VAGABOND Volume 34


CARTOONIST: Takehiko Inoue
LETTERS: Steve Dutro
COVER: Takehiko Inoue and Izumi Evers
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4930-9; paperback (March 2013), Rated “M” for “Mature”
200pp, B&W with some color, $9.95 U.S. $12.99 CAN

When it comes to samurai and chanbara, the historical manga, Vagabond, is the comic book to read. Vagabond is published in North America by VIZ Media under their VIZ Signature imprint.

Vagabond, created by the acclaimed Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk), is based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s 1935 novel, Musashi. Both the novel and the manga present a fictionalized account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, perhaps the most celebrated samurai of all time. He was a swordsman, duelist, and author (The Book of Five Rings), who lived from the late 16th century to the mid 17th century. In Vagabond, Musashi strives for enlightenment by way of the sword and is prepared to cut down anyone who stands in his way.

As Vagabond, Vol. 34 (Chapters 297 to 303) opens, Sasaki Kojirō, the deaf and mute swordsman prodigy, finds himself gaining a new position. He becomes a sword instructor for the powerful Hosokawa Clan in Bozen Kokura, the family’s home. That makes him the fifth instructor, and some in the clan believe one of the five must be relieved of his duties. That pits Kojirō against the eldest instructor, Ujiie Magoshiro and Kaede, the smelly instructor. Meanwhile, Kojirō bonds with Doryū, the devil horse that belongs to clan leader, Hosaokawa Tadatoshi.

Meanwhile, Musashi faces the remnants of the Yoshioka School, which he single-handedly destroyed. As he confronts nature and existence deep in the forest, Musashi meets a rather strange boy named Iori.

One of the truly fantastic manga reads is the Vagabond manga, which is also one of the few comic books being published today that can accurately be described as magnificent. Vagabond is also somewhat miraculous, as it leaves me speechless. During and after reading it, I suddenly forget most of the words I need in order to describe just how good Vagabond is.

So let me say, it’s supa-dupa good. The art is a symphony of lush brushwork, intricate inking, precision line work, and lovely layers of toning. This is museum quality artwork.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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