Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: Ronin

Ronin Ronin by Frank Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m coming to this graphic novel after working through all of Sin City. Most of those volumes are superb, though some fall short of real excellence. This, I’m afraid, one is a notch below even the weakest of those.

The biggest problem here is that Miller had not yet mastered his art well enough to pull this story off. The pages are busy, often overwhelmingly so. And the characters, drawn to look much more conventionally human than in Sin City, look too much alike to carry the story. I read it in stages, and I’d often have to go back to my previous reading to try to sort out who was who.

All of that is in the service of a really compelling story, though. The opening sequence in which the Ronin tracks down the demon Agat to try to kill him with a magical sword is fabulous; if the whole book were that strong I’d be singing its praises.

Things get bogged down in the futuristic setting of the living machine. When the Ronin and the demon each take over the bodies/minds of characters in that new world, I get confused over who is allied with whom and why. And then when the prospect gets raised that all of this may be in the mind of one of the characters, I get further bewildered, unsure how to deal with the delicate subject of an unreliable narrator in a graphic novel. (I mean, when you see something happen, it’s different than when someone simply tells you something happened.)

When the confusion settles down in places, though, you can see the seeds that, once refined, grew into Sin City. This material has the potential to be thrilling, and I can’t figure out why, after the success of the Sin City and 300 films, someone hasn’t taken a shot at filming this. Even more than with those other books, this one seems to lend itself to a film adaptation, and I’d like to see it – not just to clear up my confusion but also because I think it has the capacity to explore some fascinating imagery that Miller’s drawing, here at least, doesn’t quite have the consistency to capture.

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