ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Ronin Island,’ Issue #1

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Ronin Island Issue #1

Ronin Island #1 is the first issue in a new series, published by BOOM! Studios, written by Greg Pak, with art from Giannis Milonogiannis, lettering by Simon Bowland, and colors from Irma Kniivila. After a mysterious attack, known as the Great Wind, wipes out the major cities of 19th century Japan, Korea, and China, survivors from all three lands find refuge on a hidden island and build a new society. Here, nationalities mean nothing, everyone is an islander and it’s shown in the titles main characters Hana and Kenichi.

Hana is the orphaned daughter of Korean peasants. Kenichi is the son of a great samurai leader, founder, and savior of the island. Despite their differences in class and heritage, they are the top students of the island and the first in their class that will take on more responsibility in protecting the village.However, just because the circumstances of the island has removed barriers for some people, others still hold them, including the kids who have a mutual disdain for each other.

If you know anything about the continent of Asia, you should know that imperialism between Korea, Japan, and China created oppression and bloodshed for generations. In fact, the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 1900s through WWII is an issue still relevant today.

Ronin Island is a story that seems to be setting up an exploration of this historical trauma with the choice to make the lead character Japanese and Korean. Seeing as Pak is Koren-American, I can’t wait to see how he explores this heavy subject while using the setting of a post-disaster world as his backdrop.

The writing in Ronin Island #1 is good, with each child feeling authentic to their ages and the older characters in the book both voicing reason from experience. In the first issue, we see Hana and Kenichi compete for the number one spot in their graduation, building the tension between the two characters. While they race, Pak uses the moment to express other sentiments from the rest of the people on the island.

I wish there was more variation in the lettering from Bowland, but given that the issue revolved mostly around one scene, it’s understandable. With the mutant army coming, I’m sure there will many opportunities for variation and creativity in the future.

That being said, the art is simplistic and refreshing. However, there is a great shift in the art style and tone when the graduation ceremony is over and situations become dire. In the art and colors from Kniivila you get a solid sense of what mood you should be feeling as you turn the pages. Not to mention Milonogiannis’ design of the mutants is a big highlight of the issue.

Overall, the book is a good first issue and sets up the trajectory of the story. When I read the synopsis that there would be mutants essentially invading an island, I was worried that they wouldn’t be coming until at least three issues in. I’m glad I was wrong and this leaves me anticipating some action scenes in the next issue.

Ronin Island #1 is available in comic book stores everywhere March 6, 2019.

Ronin Island #1
4.5

TL;DR

Overall, the book is a good first issue and sets up the trajectory of the story. When I read the synopsis that there would be mutants essentially invading an island, I was worried that they wouldn’t be coming until at least three issues in. I’m glad I was wrong and this leaves me anticipating some action scenes in the next issue.