Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength is published by BOOM! Studios, written by Greg Pak, art by Giannis Milonogiannis, colored by Irma Kniivila, and letters by Simon Bowland. It has been 30 years since The Great Wind ravaged the lands of China, Korea, and Japan. Since many individuals from a multitude of lands were struck by this tragedy, the residents of The Island have managed to come together to form one strong society. “Together in strength” is their motto. Then, one day, a general arrives claiming to be a representative of a new Shogun (lord) and demanding tribute to aid in their war against a terrifying enemy. That is the day everything changes for The Island.
I find myself at a bit of a loss as to how to begin telling you about Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength. This is a book that has so many things to say. The messages layered in these pages are dense and brilliant. Pak does a phenomenal job of telling a story that manages to harness both the fantastic and the realistic and fuse them into a masterfully crafted narrative.
While all aspects of the narrative come together beautifully, it is perhaps at its best when dealing directly with the story’s two main protagonists: Hana and Kenichi. While Kenichi is the son of one of the Samurais who helped found the community after The Great Wind, Hana is an orphan girl who lives in a shack by the beach. Both are two extremes of the social ladder. Though their differences are not limited to their place in the larger whole. In short order, we are shown that they serve as polar opposites in most respects. Where one is brash, the other is calm. When one is ignorant, the other sees the truth. In fact, their only common ground is their mutual training under their master Ito. With so much distance between the two teens, they serve as an excellent dual-lens for all that they and the rest of their community get swept up in.
While The Island may have found a way to live in peace since The Great Wind, the same cannot be said for the mainland. When a ship comes bearing the flag of the Shogun, and his emissary General Sato, demanding fealty, the war arrives swiftly in its wake. But this isn’t just an invading army that threatens, but a horde of zombie-like monsters that can withstand tremendous damage without pause. Soon the islanders are faced with no choice but to aid the army against a mutual foe. This decision will lead our two protagonists to the heart of Imperial Japan and to trials that will test them as sorely as the battlefield.
As mentioned in earlier reviews by my editor Kate Sánchez, Ronin Island uses many of the historical social tensions of the region with excellent skill. As the group travels to the capital, Hana is never allowed to forget she is Korean. She is often treated less than she deserves because of it. Likewise, Kenichi is held aloft for all that he accomplishes due to his samurai bloodline.
Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength is also done a great service through its art. Milonogiannis does an excellent job in capturing the looks and feels of the era. Everything feels authentic, while not diving into any stereotypes or clichés.
Though perhaps where the art best excels is in its tonal shifts. When big moments happen and things go wrong the change in the visuals is some of the most striking I have ever experienced. It truly grabbed me and left me without any doubt that things were about to go horribly wrong.
In the end, I cannot praise Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength enough. It tells a great story about unity, compassion, and doing what is best for the larger community. It tells an extremely relevant tale wrapped in a feudal story of samurai and monsters. There are many who claim comic books aren’t meant to be political but I’m just thrilled that Pak and company think otherwise.
Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength is available December 4th wherever comics are sold and online at ComiXology through our affiliate link.
Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength
In the end, I cannot praise Ronin Island Vol 1: Together in Strength enough. It tells a great story about unity, compassion, and doing what is best for the larger community.