Friday, February 27, 2009

Lone Wolf and Cub month: The beginning of the end in Volume 27: Battle's Eve

"Kill Itto! Whatever it takes! Understand?!"

So says Retsudo Yagyu to the assembled survivors of the undercover grass ninja, gathered before him in Edo after they have helped to engineer his release from house arrest. And over the last hundred or so pages of Battle's Eve, the twenty-seventh and penultimate volume of Lone Wolf and Cub, we start to see some of what it takes for the ninja to try to kill Itto Ogami before Retsudo comes to face him.

For starters, they send the "freshest shoot" of the grass to face him first: a twelve-year-old boy.

He doesn't have what it takes:

Itto doesn't look too happy about taking his life, though, does he? A small group of ninja who have accompanied the twelve-year-old begin to charge Itto, but stop when he takes the child's corpse in his arms. They escort him back to their camp, where he returns the child to the rest of the grass. And the grass leave him alone 'til the next morning, the day of the battle.

So what does it take for the grown-ups to try to kill Ogami? Maybe booby-trapping their bodies with explosives, so they can have a chance at killing Ogami even after they've been struck down?

Maybe not. What if they gang up on him in threes?

Well, that's a better shot, I guess. Really, though, I scanned these two pages because I like what artist Goseki Kojima does on the left page, to suggest the passage of time by spacing out a single action across three different ninja. One of the most famous Hergé panels does the same trick, with a gradual movement of desert fighters laying down their rifles and running away from something off-panel. And in the right page, I like the shot of Itto crouching in one of many holes he and Daigoro have dug on the field, suitable both for Daigoro to dive into to avoid debris from explosions (or to duck an attacker's sword-stroke) and for Itto, as pictured, to assume the characteristic crouch of the suio-school wave-slicing stroke: helpful for those times when he's still on land.

He does finish the volume in the water, though, both to perform his trademark moves to best effect and to get an extra cushion from the blast concussions as more and more ninja hurl themselves at him as living bombs, even jumping off their fellows' backs for more elevation in a murderous gymnastic routine:

And no, the fuses do not extinguish under water, and this volume ends with a huge explosion and no immediate sign of Itto or Daigoro.

There is one more volume, however, so I can assure that even these ninja-bombs don't yet have what it takes to kill Itto Ogami. Something else occurs earlier in this volume, however, that outraged me when I first realized what it meant on my initial reading of this series seven years ago. Let me just say this one last thing for today, in light of that event and in light of the tactics that send a twelve-year-old boy and human bombs to gang up on Itto in uneven numbers:

Retsudo Yagyu doesn't deserve the support he gets, and he doesn't deserve a foe like Itto Ogami.


okami said...

my friend. greetings...i found your blog trying to find a good image of ogami itto, also ive read some of your articles, greats one question.
your reviews are from the darkhorse comic published version or the 1st comic published (company name from 1987) version?
nice blog.

Isaac said...

Okami —

I'm pretty sure Mike's scans are all coming from the little Dark Horse volumes.

Mike said...

Yep, I'm working from the recent DHP versions, not the First Comics from the late 80s--though I give props to First for introducing me to LW&C...first!

Thanks for reading, Okami (cool name, by the way)!

okami said...

hi. me again. my question why the version that your using. its because ive noted that the DHC version portrate ogami smailing in some panels. dont remenber wich one. but its was odd. i've read the 1st comic publishing (have some mangas and the book one). and i fount more serious. or faithfull to the original manga. but its just my opinion.
ones aganin thank because of you i just read the final and some others chapters that i dont have in my collection of Itto