Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
One half meditative contemplation on revenge, one half blood spattered carnage, Blade of the Immortal has been a consistently solid series for over a decade. Having finished up its run in Japan earlier this year, the 27th volume of the US edition brings us one step closer to the grand finale, and as that nears the battle between the Itto Ryu and the government forces led by the disgraced Kagimura collide. The Itto Ryu’s elderly Kashin Koji faces off against Kagimura’s daughter, Ryo, and Ban, a member of the Suicide Squad-esque Rokki-Dan. Meanwhile, Rin and Manji recover after the brutal events of the last volume, and two old friends make their long awaited return. Hiroaki Samura’s epic continues to race towards its conclusion with Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 27!
After having teased us with the Rokki-Dan/Itto Ryu conflict for the last few volumes, Samura finally pulls the trigger and gives us a full fledged clash between the two factions. The battle between Ryo, Ban and Kashin Koji is the focal point of the volume, with the members of both sides being given ample opportunity to show off their skills and cunning. Ryo gets most of the attention, and Samura spends a fair amount of time inside her head, giving us a further glimpse at her burning need for her father’s approval throughout the volume. He does a good job at expanding upon her feelings and inner turmoil while at the same giving her several moments that exemplify her fighting skills and resourcefulness as well. It’s interesting to see how Ryo’s relationship with Kagimura compares and contrasts against Rin’s feelings towards her deceased parents. Both women are utterly dedicated to their fathers, and it’s not difficult to imagine Ryo following in Rin’s footsteps had their places been reversed.
Speaking of Rin, she and Manji get a few lovely and tender moments of their own as they both acknowledge the fact that they’re soon to face a situation from which neither may emerge alive. Their relationship and the way it’s grown throughout the series has been fantastic and has felt genuine, and this is no exception.
Hiroaki Samura’s artwork continues to be as fantastic as always. His action sequences, despite the bizarre flipping and chopping that goes into formatting it for the US edition, still flows cleanly and clearly across the page. His handling of time is fantastic, highlighted in particular during Ban’s scene stealing gunslinging sequences. The movement and sense of motion is absolutely fantastic throughout, whether it’s the intense rapid fire from his gunslinging or the path of destruction Ryo literally carves through her opponents. Samura’s action scenes have always been something to be remembered and are arguably some of the best to ever grace the printed page, and their battle in the woods is just a reminder of this. While the action is the sizzle, and one hell of a sizzle at that, it’s the emotion which he imbues into his characters that keeps people coming back for more. The quite possibly final piggyback ride Manji gives Rin is just as effective and memorable as Ban blowing dozens of arrows out of the air.
Samura’s Blade of the Immortal has been one of my favorite series for over a decade and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon before the series reaches its climax. Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 27 is another solid entry, and one that ratchets up the tension and stakes while providing some wonderful action and character moments throughout!
Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 27 is available from Dark Horse Comics.
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