Samurai: Brothers in Arms (#1 – 6) – Jean-Francois Di Giorgio

3 out of 5

After the engaging and moody The Isle With No Name, Di Giorgio’s Samurai set itself up in an interesting position to explore brothers Takeo and Akio’s back-story.  The thus appropriately named Brothers In Arms starts out confidently enough on that path, with the duo – and their monk friend in tow – setting out for Osaka for some answers, and Akio getting them all caught up in some political / money scuffles along the way.  This is a similar setup to Isle, in that Takeo is on a mission and finds himself pulled away due to actions set in motion by others, but it lacks the organic nature of that tale, plus the “unknown” aspect of, at that point, the location of his brother.  The central mystery of the brothers’ history should fill in for the latter, but the equation is imbalanced by Akio seemingly knowing everything and keeping it from Takeo for reasons which never quite seem logical.  The mystery is then just information withheld, and not really something for the reader to discover.  Indeed, Akio parses out bits of that story as it suits him, mixed in with the confusing criss-cross of squabbles our leads are caught up in, including Takeo’s unconvincing romance with a local servant, kindled over, like, a glance.  I get that things were different back in the day, but every idealized love story that just magically pops into place only has me thinking about how those two will get along a month down the road.  This is one aspect of the inorganic storytelling mentioned, as of course said servant gets kidnapped, and then this plotline has to fight for our attention amongst a few other scatters, causing none of those pieces to come together for a whole story.

Despite this, moment to moment Brothers is still very thrilling, with Frédéric Genêt’s amazing artwork walking us through epic battle sequences with grace.  His characterizations are spot on as well; although the core story isn’t nearly as good as Isle’s, that we’re more familiar with our three leads at this point allows the tone to open up significantly, and our creative team can craft what’s sort of an adventure buddy-comedy from that setup.

Samurai remains an incredibly convincing world, peppered with stunningly energetic moments and some fun character work.  But in trying to justify filling in Takeo’s back-story, Di Giorgio overstuffs Brothers in Arms with way too many subplots and diversions.