Wednesday, January 29, 2014
The Great Comics Reread: Shi
I honestly cannot remember why I started piking up Shi. Hell, I can't remember the first one I grabbed but over the years I've managed to collect a stack of comics about 15cm (6in) high.
Rereading the comics I found it a little frustrating - due to variant covers I've managed to acquire quite a few duplicate copies of the same comic. Also the reading order was problematic as there is actually several different characters called Shi. There is the ancient Shi from 1600's Japan Yuri Ishikawa called Toro no Shi (Tiger of Death), a WWII era Shi who first appeared in Shi East Wind Rain as an "imaginary" version of the modern Shi and the modern Shi Ana Ishikawa and it is not always clear which version the story is about. For example Toro No Shi appears in Poisoned Paradise but it is modern Shi who is drawn on the cover. Toro No Shi and modern Shi both appear in parallel stories in Heaven and Earth.
(I have to add a gripe about cross company crossovers being in two parts such as Daredevil/Shi #1 and Shi/Daredevil #1 how am I supposed to know the correct order for them.)
Adding to the confusion, the first Shi story Way of the Warrior has been retold twice, firstly in a two issue miniseries Rekishi by Christopher Golden and in the four issue novelisation Shi; The Illustrated Warrior by Craig Shaw Gardner. (although it was handy in filling in the gaps in my run of Way of The Warrior)
The stories start off in traditional vigilante fashion with 10 year old Ana Ishikawa witnessing the death of her father and brother at the hands of a Yakuza chieftan Arashi. Ana is then trained by her grandfather as a samurai and eventually she seeks revenge against Arashi. For the most part Way of The Warrior is grounded in reality.
From there the story expands adding supernatural elements such as Oni (demons) and Kitsune (fox spirits) as well as super science such as time travel.
However, I did enjoy the stories and fact that the series could change from a fuedal war between rival clans to a battle with Oni.
While Ana has a Japanese name and training, her mother was American and raised her as a Christian and many of the stories deal with Christianity. The Tora No Shi stories deal with the persecution of early Japanese Christians.
All of the Shi books I read have interesting stories and lovely art. I'll have to keep my eye out for more Shi stories.
I found Shi-Through The Ashes to be an especially moving story with Ana caught in the World Trade Centre during the events of 9/11. Ana never appears as Shi in the story (she does in the artwork) which made the events all the more powerful - Ana for all her training was overwhealmed by the events of that day and the firefighters are presented as true heroes.