Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender


The ultimate test of a work of art, to each individual subjectively, is “how memorable were the impressions this left?” Well, there's no way to forget the fleets of ships, the charge of warriors, the archetype of command from a time when a leader could choose bravely to withstand the threats he takes on alongside the ones he asks to risk sacrifice and chance victory. You felt life and death everywhere, from the brooding scenes of rulers behind the battle front to the absolutely electric warriors themselves, civilization stripped away, fight or flight impulses naked before blades, arrows, cannons, fire, and sea. You can turn the pages at the end and recognize each figure's progress as a character since their montage premiere at the front.
Any feeling of confusion is utterly heightened if you have the experience of reading this for the first time broken up. The truth is, there's a LOT going on here! Even with quiet interludes roiling in their more personal tempest, not a single chapter lags for action- action that is always of building consequence.
That turmoil defines the atmosphere: only Yi Soon Shin's moral certainty, and Japan's drive for conquest, hold these very human characters together between their opposition.
Yet wisdom dictates even the leaders don't know it all, and those most certain make the most evil actions in their absolute certitude. The hero is only certain of what's right: repulse the invasion, or innocents suffer.
“A war is coming and many are going to die.”
Yi Soon Shin's complex morality is no blind ode to nationalism alone: bloated Korean King Sonjo's vices wreak a cycle of woe behind his human shields. This first volume features singularly predatory villains on the Japanese side, but Kompan’s team finds a way to individuate them. For example, Todo Tokotora memorably holds his foes in grudging esteem. Sen Rikyu makes the first death his own because he believes conquering the world will destroy the soul of his people. Baron Sao makes an especially creepy traitor and master of assassins. Their goals and dream collide, rendering both sides all-too-human. Kwon Chung's defense of Yi's flank ends Michiyuki Gurijima's tragic affair with Todo Tokorora, and Song echoes Achilles' dilemma: flee for love, fight and face the certain death swiftly heading his way. This first volume features singularly predatory villains on the Japanese side, but Todo Tokotora memorably holds his foes in grudging esteem. Sen Rikyu makes the first death his own because he believes conquering the world will destroy the soul of his people. Kwon Chung's defense of Yi's flank ends Michiyuki Gurijima's tragic affair with Todo Tokorora, and Song echoes Achilles' dilemma: flee for love, fight and face the certain death swiftly heading his way. The duplicity of Jin in working her survival sets Admiral Song in the sights of Won Kyun, anguished by his comparative lack of glory in his own name. Yi lets Song's weakness for her bring the wrath of fifty chain lashes, for the sake of the thousands that will die without a unified chain of command. Injung's horrific violation stands between her and the support she wants to offer Yi- who is noble enough a friend to her, and faithful to his command, to focus instead on war first. Night and day he weighs consequences and decides from the facts at hand, while Seo refuses to stay dead and stalks him from the shadows. Li Okki challenges the wisdom of Yi's attack, demonstrating the uncertainty of command that Yi answers with grim persuasion. The modern venacular English dissolves a cultural and historic wall, while its realistic cadence joins us with the faithful visual depiction of its time. In so many ways it's characters we've seen time and again- the ones always evoked by war and conflict. Yet, their complete spectrum- echoing the superb Age of Bronze comic books created by Eric Shanouer, but with more intense action and De Los Santos' remarkable colors held lovingly in these high quality gloss pages-brings the types together through individuals you grow to distinguish by their actions. Timpano's attention to body language utilizes his designs superbly, where in less careful hands, characters might have blurred meaninglessly. The lettering, done in a second language by Saavedra, excites and communicates as graphic expression. The captions and quotations facilitate crucial moments ringing in the mind.
Each page fits together within itself as clear sequences- the only way to maintain order amidst the chaotic savagery that invades most every scene. Gio Temprano gives us clear layouts of the establishing shots of the navies, the watery war zone between ships, and spotlights of groups of warriors on each of them.
Finally, the comic is familiar in one other aspect: the classicist layouts take these characters through poses that have conveyed the power of their (largely American) superhero counterparts for generations.
In this story, natural laws apply, which forms a statement about the inherent forces in ordinary mortals when they engage in non-ordinary ways.
Onrie Kompan, the book's initial visionary and writer, provides a personable extra account of creative turns and the friendship and skill brought together. David Anthony Kraft, co-writer and editor, uses a lifetime of observation to supervise every inch printed count towards an ultimate, super comic book. The pin-ups at the back follow Kirby and Ditko's talent for individualizing the fantasy of characters that have paraded in the pages before. These four stories -echoing, magically, the cover drama of Kirby's debut of Captain America in the Marvel Age with #4's tribute to Avengers #4- create the first of a trilogy, so your attachment to the characters will be rewarded with a further, yet finite, arc. The commitment and resolution epitomize an effort for which one might gamble the meaning of one's very existence on its success to move you and remain with you- which is very much in the death-defying spirit of the central character who called for his story to remain alive through readers yet to come. The compactness of the printing schedule, by design and incidence, calls for only the very best, and guarantees consequences for every character.
I recommend reading it with someone whose company you enjoy. My wife's visceral irritation with Won's piggish appetite to feel like a Big Man showed the team sell him as a most despicable ally. Then his haughty charge into a trap in #3 set up the wonder and excitement of the coolest ship visual of the series -in a moment you have to see yourself!
Yi Soon Shin walks the ships of the minds of the modern reader, in a tome set against corruption, embracing human nature and mortality with sheer will to live, and the cry:
Bangpohara!