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Review: Samurai Jack #1

Mike Pawuk

Samurai Jack #1
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Andy Suriano
Published by IDW Publishing

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IDW Publishing is fast becoming known as the hot spot for licensed properties: They’re the home to such popular franchises as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Transformers, Ghostbusters, GI Joe, Star Trek, and The Powerpuff Girls, to name a few.

One of the highlights this week in comic books shops is the launch of the highly anticipated Samurai Jack monthly comic book written by Jim Zubkavich, writer of Skullkickers, and illustrated by Andy Suriano, who worked as a designer for the original Samurai Jack animated series. IDW Publishing is committed to 10 issues but may extend further than that if sales are good. So is it good? Oh yes.

For those of you unfamiliar with the original cult-favorite animated series, the show created by Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator/director of shows including Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Hotel Transylvania. The show featured a lone samurai nicknamed “Jack” (his real name was never revealed) who after nearly destroying an evil entity called Aku who enslaved his family and homeland in feudal Japan, is flung by the demon into the far future. In this warped future, Aku now is the ruler over the entire Earth and beyond and has enslaved mankind as well as many other alien races. A stranger in a really strange land populated with killer robots, bounty hunters, and aliens, Jack wields a magical sword imbued with the powers of righteousness. The stoic Samurai Jack is the only human capable of defeating Aku. In each episode of the series, Jack helped the helpless as he battled against Aku in search of a way to go back in time and undo the evil of Aku. The show was on for four seasons on the Cartoon Network from 2001-2004 and totaled 52 episodes. The Emmy award-winning series was heavily inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films, as well as many popular culture inspirations from the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Star Wars, the 1970s tv show Kung Fu, and many more influences.

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Now, almost nine years after Jack’s original animated adventures ended, IDW Publishing has picked up the reins to tell new adventures of Samurai Jack. In the end of the original animated series, Jack never returned home to his timeline. There was a glimpse of when that could happen (Episode XXXII: Jack and the Travelling Creatures), but finally there is a chance that Jack may be able to find a way home.

Issue #1 is the first of a 5-part storyline called the “Threads of Time.” As the series begins, Jack wanders the desert in search of a wise sage called Soule the Seer who knows of the fabled Threads of Time. Eons ago, the shape-shifting wizard Aku learned from an ancient artifact called the Rope of Eons the secret magic of time travel. After Aku learned its secrets, he shredded the artifact so that no one else could benefit from it. The remaining five magical fibers left behind are now known as the Threads of Time and if Jack can gather them back together he may be able to re-wind the rope and rewind himself to get back to the past to his destiny.

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Jim Zub is one of the best suited writers for the series and was a smart choice for IDW. His work on his creator-owned Skullkickers series has oodles of humor, action, and monsters and it’s right up Jim’s alley. As for the art by Andy Suriano – as a fan of the show myself, having one of the actual artists who worked on the show doing the art for the series is just perfection. The show’s original look of the series was very flat and works perfectly as a comic book. The series actually feels like a Season 5 but in comic book form and it doesn’t get any better than that.

The first issue is very accessible to even readers not familiar with the original show – which is still airing in reruns on Cartoon Network’s Boomerang channel. The show was rated Y7 and the IDW comic book is appropriate for ages 7 and up as well and would appeal as well as to anyone who enjoyed the show.

Just within the first issue, Jim and Andy were able to recap the original premise of the show and start Jack on the first part of a quest that included plenty of the action, humor (including a fun take on Marvel Comics’ Wolverine), and adventure that helped make the show one of the highlights of modern cartoons. As a fan of the show I can’t ask anything more.

As a side note – for fans who can’t wait for next issue, IDW Publishing is also releasing a collection called Samurai Jack Classics on November 12th which reprints the original DC Comics/Cartoon Network stories created for the anthology Cartoon Network Action Pack monthly comics published over the years.

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Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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