Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Saverio LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES / IZUNA BOOK 1 / IZUNA BOOK 2 Tenuta returns to his violent world with another finely chopped blend of sword swinging and scary spirit action in this rabid revenge story of a low caste child determined to find his kidnapped sister no matter what the cost.
Young Shinnosuke has a desperately hard life, regarded as little more than scum for his lowly Hinin clan status, struggling to make ends meet working any jobs available and looking out for his younger sister, Mikiko, protecting her from not only their somewhat deranged and seemingly terminally ill witch of a mother but also the unwanted predatory attention of higher caste males. He dreams of being a noble samurai, something seemingly far, far beyond his current dishonourable birth status.
Shinnosuke finds a strange mask with a demon face in a nearby abandoned village, scene of a recent ravaging conflict, which he initially dons purely to disguise his identity in rescuing his sister from the recently arrived arrogant and entitled samurai Mokai, the spoilt son of the equally loathsome new doctor sent by the shogun to take charge of the area as his own fiefdom.
After defeating Mokai surprisingly easily, indeed dealing him a rather horrific disfigurement by relieving him of his nose, Shinnosuke begins to suspect that the mask may hold some hidden power. Unfortunately for Shinnosuke and his sister Mikiko, Mokai is not the sort of person to take the loss of his nasal niceties with good grace
Over time, as the despairing and ever more vengeful Shinnosuke searches relentlessly for any trace of his vanished sister, he begins to transform into the infamous samurai Nobu Fudo, whose mask and dark demeanour leads many to believe that his inner demons might be somewhat more than of just the psychological kind
Though, certainly in this book at least, the more magical, fantastical elements are kept to an absolute minimum. I suspect there is much, much more of that to come mind
Tenuta is like Paul BATTLING BOY Pope and Sergio COLLECTED TOPPI Toppi for me, in that, perhaps not surprisingly given how long it is between his publications, I always forget what a brilliant writer he is in addition to such a spectacular artist. His epic sword (and well
pretty much every type of Japanese mediaeval weaponry you could imagine) battles are as clinically cut as they are bloodily brutal. The action depicted feels perfectly plausible in both dynamics and direction. The facial expressions of his characters are always so expressive, one can practically feel the ever-present shimmering tension trapped in Shinnosuke waiting to explode out in violence. Plus he does a pretty mean landscape too.
Whilst this story is part of the wider LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES world, you can charge straight banzai screaming in here as this is very much its own story, as was the case with IZUNA BOOK 1. A must for fans of the likes of VAGABOND and BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL.