|The Path: Crisis Of Faith
There are times when I start
to grow tired of the superhero genre.
Don't get me wrong; superheroes
are what got me into comics and they are at the core of
what makes comics unique. Every superhero book is a study
in the iconic nature of storytelling and character creation,
no matter how badly written, drawn or conceived a notion
it may be (I'm looking at you Marville).
But there are times when I
just want something different from my comic shop. Thankfully,
the industry has grown and branched out in the past five
to ten years, and the selection of genres has bloomed to
the point where I can find a comic book about almost anything.
(Sure, they've existed for more than a decade, but the key
word here is find.)
In one of these non-spandex-clad-muscle-men
moods, I came across a book called The Path from
Penned by Ron "I write 50%
of the CGE comics" Marz and penciled by Bart Sears, The
Path is the story of Obo-san: a monk who, after witnessing
his brother slain by the gods Obo-san had devoted his life
to, sets out upon a quest to destroy those he once revered,
with the weapon of the gods and the by-now-given-plot-device
CrossGen Sigil on his back.
I make the plot sound simplistic,
but Marz really gets in-depth in the characterization of
The Path. Unlike his other books at CrossGen like
Sojourn and Scion, Marz doesn't have to spend
a lot of time "world building," as most of the culture and
atmosphere of the Ohira Dynasty and its surrounding neighbors
are all parallels to ancient Japanese culture.
The respect and honorifics
of ancient Japan are all there, as well as the traditions
of the culture (i.e. ritualistic suicide, top knots, etc.).
In not being burdened by introducing the world to the reader,
Marz frees up space to look at Obo-san and what motivations
are behind his rebellion against the gods, introducing him
to the reader.
The plot itself also has some
startlingly interesting twists that I was not expecting
in this book about a world similar to ancient Japan: the
personifications of both gods and demons help to add a distinct
supernatural flare to the book, as well as making for some
creepifying moments when it comes to crow demons hiding
in the shadows of a monastery. Creepy little buggers…
Marz also does good dialogue.
He recognizes that many of the characters, being from the
samurai tradition, would speak in terse, shorter sentences,
but he still enables the characters to get out that much
needed exposition that helps to move the story along. It's
not the snappy and engaging back-and-forth that Brian Michael
Bendis pulls off, but it suits the subdued tone of The
Path very well.
The artwork is also quite
good, with Sears actually giving a little insight into his
artistic techniques in an article at the back of the collection.
An obvious fan of Lone Wolf and Cub, it shows in
his artwork. Most of the comic is done in the fold out,
two page format, where two open pages are treated as one.
It's an interesting approach and it's something that is
found often in Lone Wolf and Cub. There are three
direct nods to the classic manga work by Koike and Kojima
in Sears' artwork and one in Marz's writing. Geek points
to those that spot them.
At times, Sears' panels seem
somewhat crowded, but that may be due more to the size change
for the Traveler Edition than to any fault on Sears' part,
though the panels can get jumbled while reading as there
isn't always a smooth transition page to page. This is not
helped by the occasional (very occasional really) over-inking
of Mark Pennington. Pennington tends to go a little too
dark at times with his lines, which obscures faces and other
relevant bits of story, but his style does appear to mature
as one reads further into the comic, so it doesn't ruin
anything or detract from the story.
Still the best deal out there
in comics, this
Traveler edition contains a good story that has sparked
my interest, as well as some references to the only manga
I'll ever read. And all for the low low price of $9.95.
The bookstores are selling the CrossGen Travelers in with
the manga nowadays, so maybe we'll trick the next poor sucker
who tries to buy the 4th volume of Yu-Gi-Oh! into
buying a quality comic book product and get that readership
up. Or maybe he'll buy both.
Let us dream.