Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dark Mists - A Review

Dark Mists – Kuroi Kiri
Publisher Markosia Enterprises

Story Annika Eade
Art Lee Garbett (Issues #1-#3)
Art Yishan Li (Issue #4)

The company hype: Kyoto, Japan. 1936. While a shroud of impending unrest hangs over Europe, in Japan the number of Yakuza members is close to outnumbering the Japanese army. In a government experiment, a group of geisha ladies are recruited to inform on the conversations they observe between the murderers and politicians. However, as untrained spies the geisha's actions result in one of their member's brutal and bloody murder.

Jim: This was a really well done story. We meet two geishas Emi and Hoshi and follow them through their recruitment into spying. Emi is immediately endeared to us by her humor and almost cavalier attitude towards this assignment; you get a sense of true strength about her. After they accept the idea of spying for their government to keep the Yakuza from growing stronger we see them on their first assignment. Emi interviews this industrialist without him really knowing he is being interviewed. The two young women laugh on their way back home as the only information they gained was how boring this man really was. The new job seems like a game until the head of one of the geisha’s recruited is dropped off at their doorstep.

The girls all want to quit, but instead are sent off for three months to train in the martial arts. Emi is the most willful and is constantly being given the task of swimming back and forth across a lake for her insubordination. Ultimately the girls prove to be great students and the instructors believe the grace and dancing they learned as geishas translates into the marital arts. Still the girls are nervous as the danger back home is real. To see if the girls are truly ready one instructor breaks into their room at night. Emi is sleeping with her sword (and had never been told to do so) and she awakes and decapitates the (to her) unknown intruder. Emi is extremely upset to find out she had killed her instructor.

An additional element of the story is one of the government men who recruits the girls is also in love with Emi and wants to marry her. His high station in life and her status of geisha creates barriers, but he believes he can overcome them.

When they get back the girls are sent out as assassins and are successful. Unknown to them the men they are killing are actually part of the Japanese government as the main man who recruited them is secretly a government agent working for the Yakuza. Emi’s lover (Makoto) tells her this and she goes after the double agent (Osamu).

Osamu tells her who his boss is and writes down his address. Emi goes to the house and sees all of its obvious wealth and slays the man in his sleep. As she turns his body over she sees it is Makoto. She had been played again and our story ends.

It was so well done that I’m glad I had the collected edition as I never wanted to put this book down. It leaves you felling like Emi at the end, empty, lost, alone and drained. You can feel her pain and her humiliation at being played yet again.

The artwork is obviously some early work by Lee Garbett as opposed to his stunning work in DC right now, this work is very, very good, just not up to what he is doing now. The line work is thin and conveys both the beauty of this woman and the grace that they have. He also does a great job with the expressions on the character faces and conveys all the emotions this story calls for. His work improves as we move into each chapter.

The second artist is a drop off in quality, but it is not bad artwork, it is just Lee is that much better then Yishan.

Overall Grade A – Powerful, emotional and gives you a picture of a time and a place that is unfamiliar to most of us.

This was a four issue mini-series originally and the collected edition has apparently been out for awhile, but you can do what I did and order it from your local comic book store.

Gwen: Jim's already summarized the story here so I'll just move on to the review.

The art is very well done, especially in the beginning. The artist for the last part of the arc wasn't quite as impressive but it was still well done. I especially liked the coloring though - I think that in this instance the color made the line work all the more beautiful. The art more than anything allowed the story to flow. I was also impressed with how the artist in the first part of the story conveyed emotion in the characters. It was easy to understand what the characters were feeling from their body posture alone.

The story was well done - to a point. It seemed somewhat rushed to me, especially toward the end. I understand the girls being manipulated throughout the story - but after one man has pulled so many of your strings without you knowing... why would you even think to trust him to the point that you kill someone without making sure they are actually your target? It seemed to me that the tragedy at the end was forced and didn't take into account the character's intelligence. It's true she could have just been very far gone emotionally, but it still seemed unlikely that she'd be so incredibly naive after having it revealed to her how blind she had been in the past. Still, I enjoyed this story, and think that if they had given it a little more time to come together it would have worked out even better.

Grade B

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