Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lone Wolf 2100 #2

Lone Wolf 2100 #2, June 2002, Dark Horse Comics
writer: Mike Kennedy
artist: Francisco Ruiz Velasco
additional coloring: Edgar Delgado
letterer: Chris Horn
assistant editor: Jeremy Barlow
editor: Randy Stradley
Inspired by the classic manga series Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koine and Goseki Kojima.

When I began planning the A Comic A Day challenge back in June, I told myself, “A year is a long time. You’re going to review a different comic book you’ve never read before every day? Even on your birthday? On Christmas? What if somebody dies? Will you review a comic book that day, too?” Unfortunately, the latter came first. I eulogized my old friend on my LiveJournal, but I will reiterate here that he was a tech guy, a freelance computer technician. Interestingly, today’s read is about futuristic rogue technology. The parallel hasn’t escaped me.

Lone Wolf 2100 is, of course, inspired by Lone Wolf and Cub, the fan favorite manga series. (I’ve recently read that even Frank Miller, who has contributed covers to the series, is a diehard fan himself.) I’ve never read the original, and in fact I thought that this issue was a part of that earlier series, so I’m disappointed that I essentially unwittingly purchased a spin-off, and further, that I don’t have a point of reference to compare it to its hallowed predecessor.

Then again, maybe that’s a good thing, because I rather enjoyed this issue. “Lone Wolf” is the renegade Itto, an android emulation construct (Emcon) apparently built for battle, and “Cub” is his former master’s infant daughter. Together, they are on the run, when this installment begins, the two have taken refuge in a tormented but isolated village. Before he hits the road again, Itto swiftly defeats the village’s oppressors by severing several of their extremities with a mere swipe of his hand. The band’s leader catches up with Itto and although the warrior bests many of the desert thugs, he is still vulnerable to a bullet in the back. The tyrants take the baby and Itto ends up back at the village, where despite the simpletons’ skepticism of his nobility, the android gets back on-line and back on his feet to vow that he will rescue the wayward cub. In the meantime, a fellow Emcon aligns with the government to find Itto and the child. To be continued.

Despite his rigidity, Itto is a likeable character and a believable hero. He has masterful combat skills but is obviously not invincible. He has an allegiance to his liege in spite of his programming, and he apparently inspires opposition from the wicked and faithfulness from the pure of heart. Kennedy paces this story well, with the interludes finely woven into the main feature’s momentum. This may be the second chapter in a four-part tale, but it stands alone as a compelling adventure with dynamic characters in its own right. Velasco has a manga style to his adaptation, but the characters’ blocking is definitely Western, combing the best of both worlds. These pages look like scanned pencils, and although I may be wrong, this rough element coupled with some moody, pastel coloring make for a genuine engrossing experience. The lack of backgrounds on several pages is an afterthought. The concept’s depth is good enough.

So will combat-ready androids conquer the world in a mere one hundred years, roaming the countryside with some warped samurai code? In this incarnation, Lone Wolf is Ronin-meets-Terminator, an interesting combination, and one that suspends belief. Comic books are always good for that. In the face of loss, of reality, a little escapism never hurt anybody.

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