If Mike Oeming’s “Bastard Samurai” bears any similarity to David Mack’s “Kabuki” series, it’s for good reason. They’re both good friends and used a tale of the Samurai and Asian culture as a tribute to their late mothers, who both played an integral part in their development as artists.
Bloody, intellectual and possessing the type of art work that would make it easily confusable with a Disney movie, “Bastard Samurai” manages to steal your soul and hand it back forever changed.
The first three pages cement the notion that this trade is unlike anything else out there, as our main character describes the feeling of a kill being comparable to winning the lottery or falling in love, “IMA: The now, the moment, free of desire.” Explaining how important IMA is to staying alive, Oeming and co-writer Michael Gunter do a splendid job of immersing you into the Samurai world, forcing you to accept the principles and code of the characters involved in the story.
Even though you won’t need to be by the end of the trade.
Taking you on a ride that is as unexpected as it is colorful, there’s so much more than blood and killing present in this story. If you look deep enough, you may even feel that it is almost a coming of age story- one that shows how life isn’t over when you realize everything you’ve come to accept as truth is wrong and you must find a way to pick yourself up again and thrive.
If that wasn’t enough, seeing how this loyal, yet cold and calculating killer deals with life in the outside world is a tribute to every Kurosawa flick and all the Japanese lore and culture you could think of. However, at the same time, the philosophical elements force you to examine your own life, while he brilliant art work by Kelsey Shannon traps you in this world of honor, lies, deception and intrigue, forging the foundation of an excellent book that never fails to captivate.
Sure, it is a bit on the short side and you’d like a bit more back-story, but for what it’s worth, “Bastard Samurai” is deeper than what you’d expect and will linger in your thoughts for days. Challenging the ideas of what a trade is supposed to be, Oeming and Gunter’s tale is truly one of a kind.