Review: Sabertooth Swordsman HC

I attempted to keep up with this series when it was released digitally, but reviewing a weekly book isn’t always the best idea as you can end up writing a similar review over and over. I instead decided to wait until I could read the entire story in one fail swoop and I have to say that it was even better. If you read my single issue reviews then you should be asking, “How is that possible?” because I really loved what I had already read. Well it is, let me explain. Sabertooth Swordsman is equal parts comedy, drama, action and romance; all encompassed by a world that is strange and beautiful. The story is crafted in a wonderful round in which the beginning is the middle, but in a strange way everything could be the beginning or the end depending on how you want to look at it. Maybe that’s just a me thing, but I honestly think that you can read this out-of-order and still have the entire series make sense due to the way it’s constructed and not have the meaning or impact of important scenes lost.

We start off with a man who has been left beaten and bloody. As he kneels on the ground looking pathetic and sad, a Cloud God floats by and drops a flyer for him to find. The man looks at it and decides that he wants what the flyer is offering which is incredible strength. We watch the man risk his life to climb the Cloud God’s mountain and become transformed into the Sabertooth Swordsman. The Swordsman’s journey is never easy and in fact most of the time he’s either tricked by someone or upsets the people he’s trying to help. It’s soon revealed though that he’s searching for his wife who has been kidnapped by the Mastodon Mathematician.

Sabertooth Swordsman HC CoverThat’s where the heart of the story comes into play. Yes this story is funny and full of incredible action, but the heart is a man’s journey to find and rescue his wife and it’s touching. Maybe I shouldn’t have become so invested in it as I was, but for me it was a very important part of the story.

The writing is incredible. I believe that both creators Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley created the story, but that Gentry handled the scripting. I haven’t read too many stories that you could read out-of-order and still get the same emotional journey from them, but this is one of them. I’m sure that wasn’t the creator’s intentions, but one day I will conduct an experiment using this series just to prove a point.

Aside from the emotional story elements there are the obvious video game references. Sabertooth receives power ups and learns new abilities that help progress story and act as a way to “beat” or progress to the next chapter. While these are great and used perfectly, they’re not the core of the story. If this is all you took from this story then I honestly feel sorry for you. That aside it is the first comic since Scott Pilgrim to use video game references in a comic book and do it well.

As much as I love the story everything really comes down to the art for me. Conley’s style plays a tremendous role in the execution of the narrative. His art style is both familiar and foreign at the same time. I’m sure I previous compared his style to other illustrators, but upon a second read… I don’t know if there is anything close. Conley mixes and matches serious visuals with softer more cartoonish visuals and does so flawlessly. Oh and the emotions he pours into each panel of every page. There isn’t a line of dialogue for the longest time because the visuals can handle everything on their own. This happens over and over in the story as the characters facial expression can say just as much as a line of dialogue. The Cloud God is a perfect example of the visual nature of the story as the character changes size, location and never once utters a word. Yet you’ll pick up on his child-like nature instantly; you’ll see the care he has for Sabertooth Swordsman and really how he’s responsible for much of the plot’s progression without being in the story all that much.

This is a fantastic read and a brilliant hardcover. I hope that there are more adventures for Sabertooth Swordsman or at the very least more set in this world. Even if you check this book out digitally it’s more than worth a purchase and if you missed it, then prepare to dig into one of the most unique stories published this year.

Score: 5/5

Creators: Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $17.99 Release Date: 11/13/13