Kenichi’s and Hana’s world is upset with the arrival of a mysterious samurai and monstrous attacks. Who is friend and who is foe? The adventure continues in Ronin Island #2 from BOOM! Studios.
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: April 10, 2019
Previously in Ronin Island: In the aftermath of a mysterious attack known as the Great Wind, survivors from China, Japan, and Korea settle on an island and forge a new community together. On graduation day, two young students stand out – Kenichi, son of a samurai and one of the founders of the island, and Hana, a poor Korean girl who lives on the beach. They’ve competed all their lives, and this day, when the winner is destined to lead the island, they have an exact tie. But any celebrations are cut short as a ship arrives with General Sato, who claims to be the envoy for the Shogun, and his forces. He promises the island protection, but demands a share of their harvest. The elders don’t accept this, but agree to parley. But there isn’t time. Sato points to the mainland, where their farms are, farms that are being overrun by monsters.
PRIDE AND WISDOM
The more I read Ronin Island #2, the more I find in it to think about. We pick up where issue one left off, with the free soldiers of the Island agreeing to go with General Sato, but not relinquishing command to him. Elder Jin apologizes to Hana and Kenichi – they’ve had their training, but have not had to really fight, and she reminds them that instead of fighting against each other, now they have to fight for each other. I like this message. But, as young people sometimes do, you can see that Hana and Kenichi gloss over it, eager to get into the fighting.
No sooner do they reach the mainland then they’re in the thick of things. Humanoid monsters with claws and horns, are slaughtering farmers, and they don’t bleed, much less die. The farmers and villagers have to fall back to boats so everyone can flee to the island, and the General’s men set fire to the houses.
Elder Jin admonishes Sato that he could have told them more about these monsters, the Byōnin, but then she does something really important. She admits that she could have listened more to him. And she thanks him for his help. But there’s immediately another point of contention. Jin is happy to use their supplies to feed Sato and his men, but he demands supplies for the Shogun’s forces. Jin is not so willing to accept the authority of this unknown Shogun, but doesn’t have much choice. This argument ends with Sato locking her and Ito up and taking over the Island.
Even in servitude, Hana and Kenichi keep sniping at each other. Belatedly, Jin and Ito realize the two young people have been brought up like that. Their hope is that they will remember again how to work together as they did in their first battle. There are some thoughtful moments, as when Kenichi and Hana are getting their hands dirty building a barrier around the village. The samurai mock Kenichi about being a noble who’s forced to get dirty, but Hana embraces this, saying that as Islanders, they do what needs to be done, and it is honorable work. And then they briefly get into another disagreement.
Hana claims she’s keeping her head down not in defeat, but in order to bide her time and find a way to strike back. But this discussion is cut short when a herd of monstrous horses come stampeding in. Kenichi thinks this may be their opportunity to take Sato out, but Hana thinks they have to keep the fence up to protect the Islanders. Outside the fence, Sato loses all his men, and we reach the big disagreement at the end. Both of them take to heart what they’ve been taught, “Together in strength.” Kenichi thinks this is the time to strike against Sato; Hana thinks they need to listen to him and work with him.
SIMPLE BUT DYNAMIC ART
Ronin Island #2 has a distinctive style that makes me think of woodcuts somehow. Many of the backgrounds are very simple; the focus is on the characters and the subtle changes in their expressions. We see long shots of the Island throughout which looks like a large, steep hill jutting out of the sea. But once you see it, you know the profile, and you always know when you’re seeing it.
The story takes place in an alternate 19th century Korea/Japan/China, and the costumes, weapons, and technology look appropriate to that. I find this book culturally fascinating, touching on three very different cultures and making the Island a place where they can come together. I look forward to seeing how this is going to play out, especially if we find out that there is someone as Shogun. Is there a single dominant culture on the mainland? What does that mean for people of the other cultures?
The monsters are interesting too. They look almost demonic. They’re certainly supernatural. We do see limbs cut off, and some blood (people) and goopy stuff (monsters). There are even some brains, as damaging them in the head seems to slow them down a bit. (Only a bit, though.) When the horses run through later, they’re drawn in a similar style so we identify them immediately as monsters. It did take me a while to realize they were horses.
BOTTOM LINE: A FASCINATING TALE
The conflict between Hana and Kenichi in Ronin Island #2 is a familiar one. However, there are so many potential plot points where this could be put into play that it really makes the story interesting. And the whole concept of the Island and the contrast between it and a more traditional society also has a lot of potential.
Ronin Island #2
As Hana and Kenichi come of age, their whole world changes. How will it change them?