Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lone Wolf and Cub month: A little R & R in Volume 11: Talisman of Hades

There is one unquestionably awesome page in Lone Wolf and Cub volume 11: Talisman of Hades:

Itto Ogami: samurai, assassin, cartoonist.

Unfortunately, the rest of the volume is sub-par. Then again, after the intensities of the previous two volumes, that might be a good thing, to give the dazed and dazzled reader a chance to catch his or her breath. And really, there's nothing wrong or objectionable about the stories in this volume. They just don't seem all that different from some of the more episodic episodes that have preceded it, and there are only two plot developments with real bearing on the longer arc of the narrative: Ogami and Daigoro are reunited, and Ogami discovers part of the secret of the Yagyu letter that he had previously stolen.

[Mild spoiler alert: This particular part of the Yagyu secret had been hinted at in a previous volume during a conversation among the Yagyu themselves, so all that this volume adds to the wider plot is Ogami's knowledge of a certain secret technique that affects the ink used in writing the letter. He still doesn't know what ultimate purpose the technique serves, as the text of the letter itself seems utterly innocuous. Knowing this, the frugal or time-pressed reader can safely skip volume 11 without missing much as far as the overall series is concerned.]

The volume does conclude with a pretty interesting scene where Ogami is challenged by the dying words of his latest victim (victim of a regular assassination-for-hire, rather than of Ogami's self-defense or vengeance against the Yagyu and their allies). This samurai was marked for death by his fellow retainers, who found it shameful when he ordered a large group of warriors to fall back from a burning castle rather than attempt to rescue its treasures. Turns out he was motivated not by cowardice but by love of life—and not even his own:
He continues:

This man may have called his bushi (warrior) status into question by failing to fight the fire, but he clings to his humanity. Not so Ogami. But the dying man won't let Ogami off the hook quite so easily:

And with that he dies. Standing over his corpse, Ogami admits: "We, too"—he and Daigoro—would "live [our] lives in hope of such an end" were there not "things more forbidden than death, for those denied the way of the samurai and the way of man...."

Scenes like these maintain a sense that Ogami really is more than merely single-minded, still retains a knowledge of human feeling even though he must not allow himself to indulge it. Too bad the scene feels a bit tacked-on in the last three pages of a 306-page volume! Better luck in the next volume, maybe?

1 comment:

Isaac said...

It is hardly surprising that Ogami has an elegant brush line.