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"Death Kanji" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

article-cover

Written by Jordan Patrick Finn
Illustrated by Greg Woronchak
Colored by A.H.G. & Christopher Smith w/ assistance by Taimia Kakashi
Flats by Taimia Kakashi and Yousr Ghanem 
Lettered by Lyndon Radchenka
2020, 82 Pages

Review:

With a baby on the way, a Daimyo in feudal Japan dispatches his samurai to find out more about his past. He's led a privileged life after he was found by the river as an infant. The samurai finds out a horrifying secret of his master's past, forcing him to make a difficult decision that will change his life forever.

The samurai is our main character in Death Kanji and writer Jordan Patrick Finn spends a considerable amount of time developing him. We understand the struggles he's gone through in life and the heartbreak he experiences on a daily basis. This investment pays off throughout the story, as we are more attached to him as a character.

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Where Death Kanji falls off a bit is that it's a little disjointed in terms of its genre mix. The majority of the book is a straightforward samurai tale, then just past the halfway point, a hideous monster shows up and it turns hard into horror. There is no warning for this at all. While it's shocking, it almost feels out of place, like we suddenly fell into a different story. If there were some more hints to this peppered in earlier in the plot, it might have worked a little better.

That isn't to say that the horror elements don't work. What strengthens them is the investment in the samurai's character and what this monster means for his overall mission. There's a scene at the very beginning which helps illustrate just how far he's willing to go that is reframed by where this path takes him.

Letterer Lyndon Radchenka helps wrangle this transition. There's a lot of information to take in throughout this story, yet it never feels confusing or overwhelming. I liked how the caption boxes get extra creepy for the horror part of the book.

The monster is definitely a highlight and artist Greg Woronchak creates something absolutely horrifying. It's a mass of flesh, mouths, and limbs and none of them are in the right places. It has a tortured existence, implying that it's painful to breathe, yet that doesn't stop it from consuming anything that comes into contact with it.

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Colorists A.H.G. and Christopher Smith, with assistance by Taimia Kakashi, and flats by Kakashi and Yousr Ghanem, shifts the tone of Death Kanji when the monster shows up, furthering the abrupt change in tone and genre. The palette moves to unnatural purples and greens, as if the samurai has stumbled upon a nuclear waste dump. This contrasts with the colors on the rest of the book, which make everything appear like a normal, everyday world.

The human characters have some nice depth to them, although they can occasionally come across as stiff or awkward. There are some terrific layouts in Death Kanji, with no two pages having the same one, creating a dynamic reading experience.

Death Kanji is an intriguing blend of genres, mixing a samurai epic with monster horror. They're more like side-by-side instead of intertwined though. Overall, it's a great, character-driven story about one man's quest for honor, no matter the cost.

Grades:

Story: threeandahalfstars Cover

Art: threeandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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