Sam Thorne reviews Samurai Jack Classics Vol. 1…
Jack is back! The hit TV show turned hit comic book returns in this collection of classic Samurai Jack stories. Kicking off with Jack’s origin story and continuing through the first of his Cartoon Network Action Pack tales, see Jack’s first battle with Aku as the events that propel the entire series unfold! It’s sword-swinging, fist-pumping, vengeance-getting action at its best.
As a tie in for IDW’s brand new series featuring Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack, IDW are re-releasing several of the follow along comics from the original series in collected paperback. There’s always an inherent limitation when making comics for a TV series, that you can’t necessarily advance the plot in any way in risk of superseding the show. I had a fear that Samurai Jack Classics Vol. 1 would just be a disjointed collection of tales simply put together to replicate the success of the TV series it was following at the time. Suffice to say, that prediction was pretty much on the money.
The first 40-50 pages or so of the lengthy 136 page collection focuses on Jack’s origin story. Simply put, Aku the demon wizard has enslaved Jack’s people. Jack inherits a mystical katana and bests Aku in battle only to be sent far into the future where Aku’s grip’s is all-reaching and all-powerful. Thus starts Jack’s quest to journey back to his original time so he may finish what he and Aku started. The rest consists of short tales of Jack liberating others from Aku’s hold, before passing along to the next town in true drifter style.
The main flaw with Samurai Jack Classics Vol. 1 is that while I hadn’t read any of these tales before, I essentially had. The origin story is penned with some nice artwork and told quite well, but ultimately it’s just the first episode of the TV series printed on paper. As for the other tales, they basically just mimic episodes of the TV show, while there’s literally no development of anything as the stories progress. Perhaps for some that’s not a problem, but the whole disjointed and seemingly unrelated nature of every story had me struggling to maintain any kind of interest. In addition, the later tales in the volume start to veer away from the serious, heavily oriental tone of the franchise in pursuit of more typical cartoon network hi-jinx.
I wouldn’t recommend Samurai Jack Classics Vol. 1. It’s certainly readable, but I don’t know how anyone could justify purchasing it over the DVD boxset, or IDW’s much more intriguing rebirth of the series. Unless you’re a bonafide Samurai Jack enthusiast perhaps give this one a miss.