Writer: Eastin DeVerna
Art: Shawn Daley
Publisher: Source Point Press
WHAT IS IT?
An epic quest with an elderly protagonist colored in with elements of supernatural fantasy and samurai lore.
Think Samurai Jack meets Logan (or Old Man Logan, if you're a bigger fan of the movie's original source material).
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
An old samurai must go on an epic quest to find who killed his son and kidnapped his granddaughter.
On his journey, Ojichan discovers things new and magical, and must also come to terms with others from his past he thought long buried.
He teams up with new friends and old faces he'd never have expected to join him in this adventure, travels to exotic and strange lands, and meets beasts he'd never have thought he'd encounter.
Eastin DeVerna's take on the reluctant hero's journey is fascinating not only because it stars an old man who happens to be a samurai, but also because he's not reluctant to go on the journey itself, but to set out for the wrong reasons. Contrasting his motivations against his fellow party members' is fascinating as we see them work together, even when their end goals diverge from each other.
The story plays out a little like a fantasy role-playing video game. New party members joining, new lands to discover, danger and adventure along the way. Castles with load-bearing bosses. There's a good balance in Samurai Grandpa of the new and the familiar.
DeVerna also has some killer lines in this book. They're a little too spoilery to quote here, but you'll know them when they knock you off your feet.
Shawn Daley's art will also bowl you over, especially in his gorgeous and detailed splash pages, like the one below. It's in these hard-hitting scenes that we really get a glimpse of Daley's vision for this story.
Daley has a unique and recognizable watercolor style that's truly impressive to see on the page – especially in the amount of detail he can fit into each panel. Also, the watercolor paper gives the book a timeless, premium quality that only serves to elevate it.
While most of the book is watercolor, it looks like Daley will sometimes use a glow effect (like in the image below). It's rare, and adds a sense of awe or magic to the scenes where it's present.
Daley sometimes changes his color palette based on venue or the mood he wants to evoke for the scene. The darkness of dimly lit pub and the mysticism and secrets it may hide within. The solemn sadness and loneliness of the afterlife shown through dreamy blues and pinks and purples. The contrast between two of these locations and their emotional tones shown through panel juxtaposition tell a story without wasting words.
His panel style is self-contained, mirroring a samurai's rigid discipline and control. His pacing is fairly standard, not rushed or slow, though every now and then, he'll slow it down to draw out a moment and give it depth.
Daley's framing and scene transitions are solid. For an example of the former, he'll position the sun behind a character's head to draw the focus to them. My favorite example of the latter is starting a scene close-up on a dragonfly's eye and then following it through several panels until it reaches our character.
Hand-drawn sound effects fit the book's organic aesthetic. While pre-made ones might've been easier, they just would have felt out of place in this comic.
The world-building in Samurai Grandpa is vast and impressive. There's a lot of earlier story that we, as the audience weren't privy to, and it influences the narrative unfolding around us. Some of that history is revealed later, and some is just hinted at and we can only hope to learn more in future issues. The reveals serve as intriguing plot devices, often portrayed smartly with a limited palette, and once with a fascinating, symmetrical play on pacing to show multiple versions of a story.
There's extremely fertile territory for spin-offs, prequels, even potentially a sequel, and according to DeVerna, there is a second volume already in the works!
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Without a character as a stand-in for the reader, there's a bit of a disconnect (or, at least, a distance) between the story and the reader. Readers may be more likely to feel like an outsider, looking in, than immerse themselves in the story.
At first, I didn't know what to expect. The title sounds comical. Several teasers for the comic feature Ojichan, and Daley's art style when it comes to characters (especially the titular Grandpa) isn't necessarily telegraphic of the deep and heartfelt story readers can expect inside.
Personally, I think an alternative balloon treatment for some characters could have given them more personality, or made them more terrifying and evil, or could give them more gravitas, as well as making some scenes with more dialogue a little clearer.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The hero's journey is so often a young man's game. The lad setting out on an adventure in search of fame, or fortune or a maiden to marry. Samurai Grandpa twists those expected tropes into something new and poignant and heartfelt. This is a story of family, and the ties that bind us to others.
The art of Samurai Grandpa is just as beautiful as the tale it tells. Stunning and dreamlike, this story will stay with you for a long time after you've finished reading it.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
If you like the art:
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Eastin DeVerna – Writer
Multitalented: Also works in international education
Also enjoys gardening and traveling
Shawn Daley – Art & Letters
Multitalented: Does the art & letters for this comic, which is uncommon for someone to be talented in both
Outlander: Lives in Toronto
Covers Bad Religion & NOFX songs with an 8bit/chiptune sound
HOW DO I BUY IT?
The first chapter drops June 26th, and the rest of the 4-issue miniseries will come out in subsequent months.
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