Writer: Amit Chauhan
Artist: Eli Powell
Color Artists: K. Michael Russell
Letters: Marshall Dillon
Yakuza Demon Killers #1 thinks it’s much cooler than it really is and I feel asleep while reading it.
To be fair, writing a number one is a very tall task. A given creative team only has 21-25 pages to establish the premise and tone of the story, introduce use to the characters that will drive it, and give us a hook and reason to invest in reading a number two. This is extremely difficult for anyone seeking to tell a story with panels and speech bubbles and it’s important to consider this when reading a numero uno, but this book fails to accomplish any of these tasks. And because of that I can only give you one, and only one, reason to read this book. Let’s talk about it.
Let’s start with the plot. We got two burglars, Ochita and Rizzo, trying to steal a McGuffin from a museum in Tokyo. As you can predict, heist goes wrong, there are demons involved, and the book’s namesake Yakuza Demon Killers kill some demons. We learn that Rizzo is the brains of the operation and will be the exposition guy going forward, the Yakuza members know how to kill demons, and Ochita loves heroin. That’s it. That’s all the plot and character work we get from this book. I’m not being snarky that’s literally everything.
I can almost forgive this because, again, it’s a number one but there are just too many problems with the presentation. The first problem is the panel layout. Things happen faster than the audience can give a damn about. Ochita is literally dragged by Rizzo throughout the whole book, taking her from one set piece to another with no transition or explanation. You can still follow what’s happening but you won’t care because is nothing is being explained to you. This is the second problem: there is no exposition. Like at all. Nothing. Axe-Cop explains its story better and it’s literally written by a five year old. Why is the McGuffin important? Why are there demons? Why is the Yakuza so hell-bent on killing them? How much heroin does Ochita do?
Lastly, none of the major players in this book have any characterization. Ochita is defined by the track marks on her arm. She can hack stuff too but it’s mostly the track marks. They actually come into play once the McGuffin is found and there is some hint at the beginning that her drug use may have a purpose to the story but on first glance, her drug use is there just to make her cool and edgy. I felt that this was a missed opportunity at best and distasteful at worst because the story was using drug addiction as simple dressing on a character. All characters have this same deficit of characterization and it’s the biggest demerit against the book.
The dialogue and the art are decent when considered separately. Chauhan (writer) does a good job with the dialogue with a bright spot being Ochita’s drug-addled monologue in the beginning. But he loses all goodwill and momentum by not using the dialogue to progress the story at all. Powell’s (artist) art work is able to capture the dark, creepy vibe of the book. His jagged pencils and shadowing capture the story’s decaying environment and the character design and many of the demons in the book are certainly noteworthy.
This brings me to the only part of the book I liked: the two vomit scenes. Powell’s depiction of vomit is excellent. He really captures the texture of the food chunks and the physics
behind the flow of vomit. The first scene is a standard scene of just Ochita vomiting. Nothing major, but the magic happens with the second. She’s riding in the backseat of a motorcycle that Rizzo is driving and she just starts spewing out her intestines on the car behind her. Powell really nails the arc of the emesis and pays careful attention to how it falls and lathers on the unsuspecting bystander. It’s the one time I genuinely laughed or enjoyed the book at all. I mean personally, I really don’t go looking for vomit in my comic books but if that’s your thing then this book might just be book of the year. That, and it highlights how much I hated the book as it’s the only nice thing I can say about it.
Verdict: The vomit scenes were the only good thing about this book.
This book was shallow, incompetent, and uninteresting. There’s a bare-bones plot that’s poorly paced, written, and explained with no semblance of meaning or purpose. The dialogue may have potential but doesn’t do nearly enough to get the audience to invest in any of the characters or drive the plot in a direction worth following. The art is passable but is substandard to other books that employ its same style. But the artist draws vomit really well and that may have well been the only part of the book I enjoyed. Forget this book ever happened.