“Hush Ronin” #1

“Hush Ronin” starts like any good Western: a small town, a drunken ronin and a very pissed off husband. Then it gets weird, to good effect.

Hush Ronin #1 Cover
Cover by J. Paul Schiek

Creator: J. Paul Schiek
Editor: Mitchell Kopitch
Publisher: Ashcan Comics Pub.

“Hush Ronin” is a love letter to its chosen genre and demonstrates a keen grasp of what makes the outlaw gamut of Peckinpah to Kurosawa so great. Within lies humor, limb hacking, esoteric horror and a pretty good horse, too.

Schiek introduces us to the world of “Hush Ronin” with a well-paced first page. We move back and forth from the drumming of hooves to the relative idyll of the ronin drinking sake. Each panel is a snapshot of the juxtaposed action and stillness, and the flow creates good tension so we’re sitting up and paying attention at the page turn. Schiek maintains this flow throughout the entire fight, and he knows when to pepper the action with comedy to set off the gore. 

There are moments when this flow breaks down a bit, however, and they occur when Schiek uses larger panels to capture a quick sequence. Without action lines, these moments feel a bit more static than the quick progression of the grids that come before, and there’s a delicacy to Schiek’s line that can sometimes break down or blur outside of medium close-ups. Still, the splashes are placed well, and Schiek keeps most of the panel structures consistent to situate us in an engaging first issue. Character expressions are vivid and varied, and the ronin is a non-stop font of irreverent patter that feels artless and lands very well. “Hush Ronin” isn’t afraid to stop and have fun, and that’s not something to take lightly.

“Hush Ronin” pairs an intriguing and well-executed plot with art that’s occasionally too varied to maintain optimal tension. The choice to go with black and white lets Schiek play with all sorts of textures, gradients and art styles, but there’s a bit too much going on at times to sell a cohesive aesthetic. The book strays from its strong ink washes into some digital clothing textures and, later, some deconstructionist, scratchy horror art in the gloom of the book’s climax. All of these effects on their own are fine, and show that Schiek’s not afraid to take chances, but they don’t hang together when they’re presented in one issue. Pacing these art shifts from issue to issue and allowing space in between to absorb the visuals might help “Hush Ronin” down the line, but the slight rockiness here doesn’t detract from the comic’s entertainment value. Instead, there’s potential here for the book to get visually weird as it digs into its supernatural elements.

Schiek chooses a brushstroke font that suits the narrative but that is occasionally a bit too thick and bold to blend well with the art. The italics are particularly heavy, and there are some balloon placements that are odd and tails that are a bit too long. There are also some good sound effects – the neighing of the horse that follows the ridge of its spine and haunches is great placement and amps up the humor of the one-sided conversation – and if the font does catch the eye, it’s still readable without any strain.

Overall, “Hush Ronin” is paced well, boasts natural dialogue and goes in on imagination and flair. It’s fun, entertaining and intriguing enough to keep me reading to see what’s going to happen to our hapless hero, and that’s more than enough to make this a comic worth your time.

The Verdict: 8/10 – “Hush Ronin” is a fun, apt wandering warrior tale, with a lot of potential for horror and supernatural storytelling down the line.

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