Ronin Island #1

Ronin Island #1

  For a couple of years now I’ve widely considered Boom! Studios to be among the best in the comic book world. Stories like Diesel and Mech Cadet Yu are some of my absolute favorite comic reading experiences, but the major downside to Boom! unlike the big three of DC, Marvel and Image is their lack of quantity. Most Boom! comics aren’t my style and on top of that, the sheer amount of comics they’re putting out just isn’t that high, so comics I love coming out of this company are few and far between. It does however, create more personal hype when a comic like this new Ronan Island miniseries gets announced by the same writer as Mech Cadet Yu. A Feudal Japan storyline in Booms!’ recognizable art style is a total dream come true, so naturally I was instantly on board. I held high hopes for Ronan Island going in, as everyone deserves at least one good wholesome Boom! Studios comic in their life.

The exact location of Ronin Island is a bit of a mystery, but one thing becomes quickly clear: the world has been laid waste to by the Great Wind, which sounds like a massive world-scale war, or perhaps a natural disaster of epic proportions. Regardless, the world has been scattered and ruined, and Ronin Island houses some of the last remnants of tradition and people from Japan, China, and Korea all living together. With a little effort, they’re able to maintain their differences and cultures while also growing together as a single people. Our two main characters: Kenichi and Hana are very different from each other. Kenichi is, I assume Japanese. He comes from a line of Samurai in a wealthy traditionalist family. Hana is an orphaned Korean, who spent her younger years doing farm work. Both are tested in this first issue to prove their worth as warriors of their people and protectors of the island, though their testing is quickly interrupted by an invader: a self proclaimed Shogun who seeks their integration back into the mainland. Doubtful of mainland’s resurgence after the Great Wind, the island’s elders are forced to make a choice: parley with this new foreign entity, or send him back to where he came from and refuse the deal.

  There are a few things worth mentioning about Ronin Island, specifically the art style which breaks away just enough from the Boom! norm to look unique while still fitting loosely into that mold. The concept of Ronin Island and its lore that’s set up in this comic is surprisingly well handled despite its lack of text heavy pages. Much of the story is learned through making inferences through the light dialogue, and with a story as simple as Ronin Island I think that’s the best way to handle it. The main characters aren’t exactly award-winningly interesting, but it’s still early in the comic, and much of this first issue focuses on world building rather than deep-diving into the two mc’s. The dynamic between the two is likely what’ll draw your attention, and I think Pak handles their few moments together so far pretty admirably. I have no idea where this comic is really going by the end of it, but it’s art and its world building was good enough to draw me back in, so I look forward to the next 4 issues here, hopefully continuing the same trend.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
The Weather Man #1

The Weather Man #1

Image just doesn’t stop. It’s kind of crazy in all reality. They’re truly a powerhouse of the independent world, and there’s something oddly consistent about the quality of the comic books they’re putting out. But on top of that, there seems to be no quality over quantity method here or vise versa. The sheer amount of quantity and quality Image is putting out on a weekly basis is borderline unexplainable and whatever they’re doing over there it’s working. Weather Man is really no exception and even though I was skeptical about the creative team and the genre of story going into this comic, The Weather Man is really a shining example of the benefits of this company taking risks and allowing these creative teams to put their ideas to page unfiltered.

Mars has been terraformed and of course taken over by humankind. It’s a technological wonderland and every aspect of it is carefully controlled and kept in order. Mars and its volatile ecosystem likely isn’t the most livable place in the universe so the weather is not only controlled but bought as sold as a commodity. Millionaires can purchase days of rain or sunshine and while that may be morally questionable, it certainly makes reporting the weather pretty easy. Nathan Bright is Mars’ #1 weatherman. He’s casual, suave, care free, and you can see why. Life is pretty easy when there’s no research to be done. Report the weather that’s scheduled to happen and your job is done. Life is pretty good, but of course, not for long. There seems to be more going on with Mars than meets the eye, and when Nathan goes on a date with a new mystery woman life comes full circle as he’s thrown into a life or death situation, running from an unknown bounty hunter with his girlfriend who turns out to be a Mars cop. Turns out Nathan is responsible for the death of near 20 billion people, a terrorist attack that took place sometime in the past. While it’s apparent Nathan has no idea what’s going on or even how / if he actually did, everyone wants his head nonetheless.

There’s something really special with The Weather Man. It’s intelligently written and it’s clever. It knows how to be funny and it knows when to be cool, and it’s certainly not afraid to cross any boundaries. There’s a certain amount of potential I see in this comic that I don’t see in a lot of the other really good comic books. Descender / Rat Queens potential, and I really hope the creative team carries it to fruition because they’ve successfully created a comic book #1 that can truly go anywhere and still work. There’s no obvious or right pathway here and that’s pretty useful for not only the creative team but the people waiting eagerly for every next issue. The Weather Man was an extremely interesting and wonderfully written open ended #1 and that’s always a major win in an over saturated comic book industry. Another win-win for Image.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Flavor #1

Flavor #1

A comic book like Flavor isn’t typically my go to genre. These near slice of life style hobby comics don’t usually catch my interest, but Flavor had a charm at first glance I don’t usually get from these kind of comics. The obviously Hayao Miyazaki world building style and art is an eye catcher, and while the book is obviously very western, it draws from some great art design and styles of animation and comic book history, and that’s a big +1 for me. But art and style isn’t quite enough for me, and Flavor is going to have to provide something as a reader I can usually forgive in genres more geared toward my interest: an extremely compelling story and cast of characters. All faith in Image aside, that task falls to the creative team.

Flavor is set in an interesting enough world that throws away realism for its setting, a fantasy world focused primarily around cooking. It’s a swords and shields fantasy but also gives a very anime 1920’s type of vibe. It’s a clever mix that works extremely well from a visual standpoint. Chefs are the true celebrities around here. Owning and running a restaurant is one of the most demanding and rewarding things you can possibly do. Being a world class chef is only a pipe dream to most, a near unreachable goal but ambition aside, Xoo is a young, unlicensed chef struggling to make a name for herself and take care of her family. Her endearing personality and trusty dog companion certainly help her along the way though, and in classic shonan anime style, it seems she’ll work until she’s the very best, even against all odds. But there seems to be much darker things going on in the shadows of the world, and when the setting turns out to be a completely walled city, we learn of some potentially evil entities in existence. But are they keeping people in, or keeping something out?

Flavor’s setting and its worldbuilding are what really shine here. Xoo’s dog is the star of the show in perfect Miyazaki fashion. It’s basically a human. Regardless of its inability to talk, it can basically do anything a person can do, which just makes it adorable. Xoo is an endearing and likeable enough character but the world and characters around her outshine her, yet another common trait of anime styled settings. These worlds that are built very specifically around one thing like cooking is a common method in these storytelling styles, but it makes for a very malleable way to tell a story, and it allows you to prioritize and make interesting something that otherwise doesn’t carry much weight by itself. Becoming the world’s best cook might make for an interesting story, but a world where everyone wants to be the world best chef? That’s attractive to a reader/watcher and that’s why Flavor succeeds where it otherwise may fail. Flavor still isn’t my go to style or my go to genre, but it has a lot of elements worth mentioning and I’m sure people that are more into this style would have have a great time with this, so I’m looking forward to the buzz around this comic later down its run.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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