Book Reviews · Pop Culture and Japan

Samurai Slasher: Volume 1 Review: A Darkly Entertaining Graphic Novel

Samurai were known for their deadly skill in combat and over the years they have been reimagined in various forms of media. But few stories have reframed the legend of Japan’s greatest warriors quite like the Samurai Slasher graphic novel series. Created by Mike Garley, the Samurai Slasher comic is based on an idea for an ‘80s movie that never came into being. Pulpy, violent and darkly entertaining, Samurai Slasher: Volume 1 follows the birth of a terrifying new monster.

A homage to monster movies

The graphic novel is split into several short stories, with the first depicting a group of college kids on a road trip. In classic horror movie victim style, each character embraces a certain stereotype like the jock and the stoner. This feels intentional on Garley’s part and there are references to other horror films throughout the graphic novel, such as Friday the 13th and Halloween.

After camping out next to a creepy lake, it’s not long before the kids are picked off one by one by a mysterious killer in samurai armour. The samurai slasher kills his victims in brutal ways, even going so far as to rip the jock’s head off with his bear hands.

The second short story delves into the origins of the samurai slasher. A cancer-riddled scientist recalls the story of a Japanese warrior who answered the prayer of a Buddhist monk. The samurai saved the monk and an innocent woman from a hoard of outlaws. The woman fell in love with the samurai and he managed to find a purpose after years of wandering as a masterless ronin. But before the scientist can finish his story, the samurai slasher appears and kills him.

The third story, ‘The Exhibition of the Samurai Slasher,’ features a greedy curator displaying the armour in his museum. Not taking kindly to being treated like an exhibit, the slasher awakens and slaughters everyone in the museum.

In the final story, the slasher is seemingly stopped in his tracks by the army. After blowing the creature up with a tank, the general orders the samurai’s body parts to be scattered across the world.

Gory fun

The first volume of Samurai Slasher is an over the top, entertaining graphic novel that is as tongue-in-cheek as they come. Each story features a different art team and I thought that added to the appeal of the comic.

I’d say my favourite story was the origin of the samurai slasher because of Gavin Mitchell’s broody artwork and Mike Stock’s precise lettering. Feudal Japan is captured in vivid detail, while the action sequences are colourful and dynamic. There’s a great panel of the samurai standing on a mountain of corpses with his sword buried in his final victim.

If you’re a fan of Japanese culture, zombie movies or history then I would recommend purchasing Samurai Slasher: Volume 1 today.

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