RONIN ISLAND #4 by Greg Pak and Giannis Milonogiannis
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
RONIN ISLAND #4 investigates the nature of evil: is it ignorance, apathy, or both? Greg Pak's and Giannis Milonogiannis' genius shine in this issue of the BOOM! Studios series.
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It's a Dangerous World

As fans of Greg Pak’s BOOM! Studios series RONIN ISLAND will recall, the major theme holding the series together is summarized by the mantra “Together in Strength.” Of course, in every issue so far the thesis has proven elusive. Indeed, Pak’s young protagonists Kenichi and Hana continue to divide themselves when they should unite. RONIN ISLAND #4 is no exception. Things go from bad to worse as Pak’s heroes enter the ignorant new Shogun’s perverse world.

RONIN ISLAND #4 includes masterful artwork by Giannis Milonogiannis. Mirroring the sickly turns, this issue takes on orange and green tones as if to signal things will get worse before they get better. Readers will learn a lot, including more about the wretched plague of Byonin ogres. However, they should prepare themselves to repeatedly say “oh no!”

RONIN ISLAND #4
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

The Enemy of My Enemy…?

In RONIN ISLAND #3, Kenichi, Hana, and their teacher work alongside their would-be colonizer, General Sato. However, while Sato respects Hana as an equal, the new Shogun judges value purely by race. Indeed, in RONIN ISLAND #4, the Shogun welcomes Kenichi with adoration and gratitude because he is Japanese. Simultaneously, he disdains Hana, who is Korean. The racism shocks Sato and the crew, but Hana and Kenichi can do little but go along with it for the time being.

As a result of these developments, Pak’s fourth issue sparks an interesting question: who is the real enemy? At the beginning, the real enemy to the peaceful islanders was the colonizing General Sato. But Sato introduced the island to the fearsome byonin, zombie ogres that hunger for human flesh. However, Hana and Kenichi’s newest enemy is the embodiment of apathy and ignorance: the Shogun. Out of these three enemies, the Shogun is the quickest to take advantage of Hana and Kenichi’s differences, dividing the two where they should stay together. It seems that no matter where Pak’s heroes turn, they are met with more enemies.

RONIN ISLAND #4
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Illustrating Horror

Milonogiannis has a knack for capturing the speed and drama of Pak’s narratives. For example, the Shogun is haughty and frivolous, characteristics that Milonogiannis deftly captures in the comic. Indeed, Milonogiannis knows the characters. Kenichi’s body language demonstrates both his stubbornness and confusion. General Sato looks continually grim. Hana is steadfast in her sense of justice, which Milonogiannis renders through her placement on the page. She tends to stand with knees bent as if ready to jump into action.

Although RONIN ISLAND #4 starts with relative calm, things quickly slip into disaster. All the while, Milonogiannis’ art becomes more frenetic. The colors shift from shades of orange and purple to sickly yellow-greens as the Shogun’s estate meets an attack from the byonin. The dramatic art supports Pak’s story as it carries out its frightening free fall.

RONIN ISLAND #4
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Satire Meets Sci-Fi: The Layered Metaphors of RONIN ISLAND #4

Throughout the series, Pak highlights the cultural divide between Japan and Korea. Indeed, Kenichi and Hana each embody one of the two countries, respectively. However, the comic’s premise necessitates that all Asian countries work together to rebuild after the catastrophic Great Wind. The metaphor is clear: we’re all on the same island together. However, spreading this message isn’t as easy as Kenichi and Hana thought. Faced with colonial warfare and monsters straight out of a horror movie, there is little room for diplomacy.

If the brainless byonin symbolize the destruction that comes from pure ignorance, the damage perpetuated by the Shogun surely implies that an apathetic government is a malicious one. As a result, Pak is able to skewer colonial dictatorships and a culture of thoughtless followers that sometimes rise from oppressive leadership. Cleverly, Pak wraps these political critiques in what is largely a sci-fi coming-of-age story. RONIN ISLAND #4 in particular starts to tie these ideas together, but refuses to give a clear answer about how we can solve these social problems.

RONIN ISLAND #4 is available from BOOM! Studios here

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