A missing father, a puzzling mystery and a long-lost magical sword bring Lin Lie into the ranks of superherodom. Your Major Spoilers review of Sword Master #1 awaits!
Writer: Shuizhu/Greg Pak
Artist: Gunji/Ario Anindito
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3,99
Release Date: July 24, 2019
Previously in Sword Master: Haunted by dreams of demons, Lin Lie hunts for his missing archeologist father – and for the secret of the black sword he left behind.
”BEHOLD, CHIYOU, THE GOD OF WAR!”
Our story opens with a giant, the God of War, in full battle with the forces of Emperor Yan nearly 5,000 years ago, a battle which student Lin Lie inexplicably finds himself. Just as he would have been crushed by the giant, his father pushes him out of the line of fire, causing Lie to awaken from his dream with a start. Moments later, he finds a strange masked man in his room, causing him to react with a fist in the face. We quickly find that the intruder is just his friend Sheng (who, by the way, is a real jerk) and that Lie has been dreaming of his dad ever since he disappeared on an archeological dig, and that all he has to remember him is a strange, black sword. Sheng has actually come to bring him information that leads Lie to a skeevy group of criminals who provide him with a little bit of information about the whereabouts of his dad, for which he trades a valuable jade cicada carving. Before he can follow up on the information, though, a strange twisted man arrives with a package, that he claims is from Lie’s dad. In our second story, Lie (after a time jump and the adventures he had during ‘War of The Realms’) is in New York, still searching for his father. He threatens an antique dealer with his blade before Shang-Chi arrives and brings him down with a few well-placed strikes. The Master of Kung-Fu hustles him away to his home, where he teaches him a lesson involving a log, a sword and Ares, the God of War.
It’s kind of a complicated lesson.
I’M STILL NOT SOLD ON THE NAME
As with my review of Aero a couple of weeks ago, the biggest weakness of this comic is a mismatch between the American material (featuring Shang-Chi and the promise of a fight with Ares) and the Chinese story (originally presented in 2018 as “Warriors of Three Sovereigns”), which feels more inventive and exciting in its storytelling. Perhaps the biggest issue for me is that Sword Master is already costumed and experienced in the second story, while the first one is working a slow build about Lie’s motives, background and destiny. Heck, he hasn’t even picked up the sword yet in the first half. That said, neither portion of the comic are disappointing. The art of Gunji is really engaging, especially his rendition of the strangely twisted probable-demon delivery guy in the last page cliffhanger, but the opening battle sequence is incredibly detailed and really beautiful. I also like the facial expressions he uses, drawing on Eastern visual language to make Cheng and Lie’s conversation hilarious and visually interesting. Anindito’s work is a little looser and more Westernized, and I’m not entirely sold on his figure work (especially on Shang-Chi), but it’s not unpleasant to look at, nor does it undermine the reading experience.
BOTTOM LINE: A TALE OF TWO TALES
In short, while Sword Master #1 is a bit of a mixed bag, where the two halves of the book don’t quite jibe, neither half is bad and both have moments that make me want to come back next issue, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. If I had my way, we’d have seen the entire re-presented origin story before we transitioned to the “young hero trying to make his mark” stuff of the second half, but I’m still down for more of this comic and creators.
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SWORD MASTER #1
There are a lot of moving parts, and the two stories presented don’t really gel perfectly, but it’s a fun read that makes me want to see more of this young hero (and also Shang-Chi, but that’s kind of a given.)