COMIC BOOK REVIEW: LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES / AUTHOR: SAVERIO TENUTA / ARTIST: SAVERIO TENUTA / PUBLISHER: HUMANOIDS INC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Set in feudal Japan, Legend of the Scarlet Blades tells the story of Raido, an amnesiac ronin in search of his past. He walks a world facing the onset of a terrible winter, a wilderness populated by mythic beasts, and cities where dark magic is commonplace. When Raido meets Meiki, a puppeteer, he discovers a bond with the young woman that enables him to assemble the pieces of his memory.
Writer and artist Saverio Tenuta has created a work of breathtaking beauty, each page a feast for the eyes, echoing the Japanese artwork from the time of the samurai. To this he's added detail and intricacy that makes it almost three-dimensional; from the layered armour of the warriors to the backgrounds of the streets and landscapes, nothing has escaped Tenuta’s attention, giving depth to every panel. The colours border on the primal in their schemes, conveying a visceral atmosphere that sets the tone of the scene before a single word is read. As befits the era, there's plenty of swordplay and a fair amount of limbs and body parts sent flying by the eponymous swords, and the movements of the combatants are captured perfectly, giving a cinematic fluidity to each battle.
There's more to this book than stunning artwork; Tenuta tells an epic tale that, by focusing on its characters, is also very intimate. Raido initially appears to be somewhat of a cliché, but grows to become someone to care about; we feel his highs and his lows, the torment of his memory loss and the impact of the revelations as he discovers his purpose, his future as well as his past. The other characters are the same – including the villains – and their histories unfold to add further intrigue and poignancy to the story.
All this combines to create a sublime showcase for the comic book format. Here is a story that, through both words and art, tells a story that resonates, one that is filled with symbolism and imagery worthy of any work of literature. Legend of the Scarlet Blades could have simply been an entertaining romp through medieval Japan, instead it's a stunning story that never patronises its readers, one with a moving ending and a denouement that may bring tears to the eyes. Once finished, the only disappointment is that there's nothing left to read, although it does spur the reader to return to the beginning and seek clues that may have been missed. A brilliant and emotional work, this is a book that everyone should know about.