By Wes Jones
Home is where the heart is… and the samurai swords. Mini-series Children of Saigo from publisher AAM-Markosia follows the remaining members of the Iwanaga clan, a family of modern samurai living in Chicago. Ben, Shiro, Zoe and Teron are the young adult children of police officer, Mike Iwanaga. The family are descendants of Koji Iwanaga, sole survivor of the Battle of Shiroyama. Koji was tasked by actual historical figure Saigō Takamori with the mission of retreating and ensuring the samurai way of life and Bushido code survive.
The Iwanaga’s background comes at a price, though. Due to their unique pedigree, a yakuza boss’ daughter wants their heads as trophies. The cover and synopsis may lead you to believe this to be a testosterone-fueled, katana and handgun murder fest, and some of it is. It becomes clear in the first issue however, that family and tradition, not bloody revenge, are by far the most prevalent themes.
Writer Glenn Jeffers pays a lot of attention to the family’s dynamic, focusing specifically on the siblings’ relationships with one another, as well as their family’s legacy. Mike’s only biological child is Shiro, having adopted the other three as a way of coping with his wife's death. This causes contention between Shiro and the rest of the family, specifically Ben, who serves as the story's main protagonist. All of the time spent on Shiro and Ben’s relationship doesn’t leave much room to sufficiently flesh out Zoe or Teron unfortunately, leaving the younger two siblings feeling somewhat flat.
Visually, the book is serviceable. It looks good, but nothing mindblowing. Form and composition are consistent with character’s facial expressions being easily readable. The fight scenes are where artist Jethro Morales really shines, however. Motion is conveyed well and as the action ramps up, the page reflects it, with splashes of blood, muzzle flashes, odd-angled perspective, and bold onomatopoeia. It seems fast and frantic while still being easy to follow.
While reading the series, I kept having a feeling of familiarity, and about half way though I realized what this story reminds me of: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, except more like Twenty-Something Orphaned Samurai Humans. The parallels are plain to see once you think about it. Four children are adopted and raised by a martial artist who is unlike them. He instills in them a respect for tradition and trains them to be ninja weapon-wielding bad-asses. Conflict over leadership arises within the family. An adversary from the the family's homeland emerges and the four siblings realize that their bond is their greatest weapon against them. While I did find the series a bit derivative, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. It might be a story I’ve heard before, but I applaud the way it was told.
Writer: Glenn Jeffers
Artist: Jethro Morales
Colorist: Andy Dodd