RONIN ISLAND #3 by Greg Pak and Giannis Milonogiannis
As Greg Pak's heroes wade deeper into the mystery behind Asia's collapse and the rise of zombie Byonin, RONIN ISLAND #3 engages with tougher issues including racism, cross-cultural conflict, and loyalty. The BOOM! Studios comic highlights Milonogiannis' skill for dramatic battle scenes.
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Greg Pak’s pan-Asian adventure returns with RONIN ISLAND #3. What began as a zombie adventure comic has emerged as a cutting metaphor for cross-cultural conflict, in particular between Japan and Korea. The series from BOOM! Studios features intricate manga-esque artwork by Giannis Milonogiannis.

RONIN ISLAND #3 dives deeper into the two parallel conflicts. First, the stakes get higher in the competition between the Island’s two young warriors Hana and Kenichi. Hana is an orphan of the catastrophic Great Wind that destroyed all the major cities in Asia. Moreover, she is both a superior fighter and empath when compared to Kenichi, the wealthy son of the Island’s last samurai. In RONIN ISLAND #3, both Hana and Kenichi (temporarily) join forces with their colonizer General Sato. This political choice exposes the second major conflict of the series: the rise of a new Shogun who demands control of the remaining communities, which all fight against terrible zombies called Byonin. While Hana joins Sato to help other survivors on the mainland, Kenichi joins him in order to irrevocably liberate the Island and prove his skill as a samurai.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Judging RONIN ISLAND #3 by its Cover?

Not only does the cover of RONIN ISLAND #3 demonstrate Milonogiannis’ skill, it suggests an emerging conflict between Hana and General Sato. The image shows Hana locked in combat with a mysterious enemy. General Sato’s grimacing face is reflected in the back of her blade. Thematically, at least, the two parallel stories are joined. The cover evokes Hana’s work to save helpless civilians and her desire to protect the Island from colonization. However, the cover is potentially misleading. The dramatic interaction suggests that Hana’s true enemy is Sato. However, RONIN ISLAND #3 produces many different (and potentially worse) antagonists for the young woman.

For example, there are still many terrible Byonin on the mainland. Additionally, there’s Kenichi, whom Hana repeatedly has to be two steps ahead of. The young man is desperate to undermine General Sato. Kenichi believes Sato is their real enemy, refusing to consider the Shogun’s motives. However, even worse antagonists await. When Hana, Kenichi, and General Sato arrive at the Shogun’s encampment, Hana realizes that the Wind did little to stop anti-Korean prejudice. Indeed, without giving too much away, the Shogun in particular is unwilling to acknowledge Hana’s skill purely because Kenichi – a real Japanese samurai – is standing right next to her.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Previous issues contend that Kenichi and Hana would do better if they worked together. But throughout this issue, the two are still in major conflict. When they embark on their journey with General Sato, the island’s elderly leader reminds Kenichi that honesty is part of a samurai’s duty. Unfortunately, Kenichi’s pride consistently stands in his way. For instance, the young man receives conflicting accounts of his father’s efforts during the Wind. As a result, he is driven to affirm that his father was unquestionably a great samurai. Moreover, Kenichi seems to believe that he is a better champion for the Island purely because he is Japanese and Hana is Korean. For example, he insists that Hana cannot possibly understand the duties of a samurai (despite the fact that she consistently demonstrates loyalty, skill, and bravery).

In RONIN ISLAND #3, General Sato serves as a peculiar foil to Kenichi. Indeed, Sato is a fully fledged samurai, devoted to serving the Shogun. Despite his colonial mindset, he is unwaveringly honest, giving Hana credit where it is due. Kenichi strives to be a samurai. However, he struggles to decide for himself the best course of action, questioning the ethics of helping Sato if it serves the greater good. Hana wants to save as many survivors as possible. Kenichi wants to protect the Island and prove himself.  As a result, this issue is rich with interesting moral dilemmas.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Fighting for Justice

RONIN ISLAND #3 highlights Milonogiannis’ skill for setting the mood. The journey to the new Shogun is somber. Milonogiannis’ artwork deliberately juxtaposes Hana’s calm determination and Kenichi’s numerous passionate and explosive outbursts. Yet in key battles, Hana outshines Kenichi. Moreover, Milonogiannis’ ability to illustrate a dramatic, climactic fight scene stands out.

As Pak’s narrative explores complicated relationships, he steadily builds a comic that examines the complexity of justice. Indeed, RONIN ISLAND #3 sees Hana emerge as a natural leader while Kenichi struggles with overcoming his own pride in the face of conflicting loyalty.

RONIN ISLAND #3 will be available from BOOM! Studios on May 8, 2019! 

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