Ronin Island #4 is published by BOOM! Studios, written by Greg Pak, with art from Giannis Milonogiannis, colors from Irma Kniivila, and lettering by Simon Bowland. Last issue, Hana, Kenichi, and their teacher Ito met the Shogun and it wasn’t pleasant. After Hana showcased her ability as a warrior, slashing through the byōnin and rescuing those defending the Shogun as he hid behind fire, she was dismissed. Whether it was because she was a Korean, a girl, or both, Kenichi is embraced by the Shogun for his valor while she is pushed to the side.
Ronin Island #4 explores the dynamics inside the shogunate, as the line between Hana and Kenichi deepens, each taking actions that solidify their characters for the reader and each other. In their new setting, where identity matters, Kenichi receives golden armor and Hana is seen as a servant. While Kenichi is uncertain, Hana understands the world she has now entered.
As someone who has grown and worked outside of wealth, she is at home with the servants, who recognize her pivotal role in saving them from the byōnin attack. On the other side is Kenichi, a boy made uncomfortable by the praise he receives and knows he doesn’t deserve while his teacher watches over him. While the two experience what it’s like in the Shogun’s presence we get to see more about them, solidifying that Hana is the more capable and comfortable of two, and as the story develops she is the one who has the heart to make the tough choices.
While in the Shogun’s good graces, the pair begin their own explorations into the byōnin and ultimately to learn about what he and his forces are up to in their enormous stronghold. As the truth of the byōnin comes out, Ronin Island #4 ends in someone making the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of their people and the wedge between Hana and Kenichi grows deeper.
The pacing of Ronin Island #4 is perfect. Pak takes time to develop each character, answer some of the questions about the byōnin, and still deliver an action-packed ending. Truthfully, there has not been an issue yet where I found myself wanting more. Instead, each issue has managed to build out the world of Ronin Island effectively while also mapping out a path forward without feeling incomplete.
As I’ve explained in other reviews, Pak works wonders with the dialogue of the characters and distinguishing them from each other as well as showing us how those around them view them, and even more so, why they’re seen that way. In addition, General Sato is beginning to take an interesting turn. Although he doesn’t do much this issue, he has a discussion at the end of Ronin Island #4 with Hana that shows Sato is more than just a servant of the Shogun, but a man who cares for his people.
The art of this issue also stands out, as Milonogiannis brings us closer to more detailed byōnin than ever before. As for the colors, Kniivila excels in using them to bring fantasy and build tension. The wind is both beautiful and eerie and the coloring of the byōnin with yellows and oranges creates an otherworldly monster that is clearly natural.
Overall, Ronin Island #4 continues to tell a wonderful story that will have fantasy and horror fans in love with every page.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.