Reading Pile: Cold Blood Samurai TP
Cold Blood Samurai was sort of an indy gem when it popped up in late 2019 as the first issues garnered some solid online reviews. Published by Action Labs, CBS is an anthropomorphic samurai tale populated by frogs, lizards, crabs, and more. The story focuses on a salamander gaijin who is pulled into a civil war that is fomented by westerners that are manipulating the Emperor. It's a solid concept with interesting art, but stilted dialogue and some unclear visual storytelling at times prevents it from achieving the full immersion I was hoping for.
The story follows two main arcs as the main plot hinges on the antagonists General Muscle-Saurus (gotta love that name) and his vicious lackey Blackspot as they push to divide the country and kill the Shogun. Meanwhile our nameless hero wanders towards the main conflict, restless after the deaths of his true love as well as the master who took him in and trained him when his parents died. His path will lead him to various battles as he makes his way to Shogun in the hopes of finding an honorable death.
There's a mix of some classic tried and true samurai fiction tropes being mixed in with the historical fiction and themes of tradition and honor, which combines nicely with the outcast nature of the main character so there's plenty of engaging drama and conflict. Overall the story structure and pacing worked out well for me, but there was just an occasional lack of flow to some of the dialogue that pulled me out at times.
Likewise, Ceregatti's art and design are a lot of fun and she has some really great sequences and truly amazing and striking covers to the series. However, there's also a bit of muddled storytelling, sometimes due to the choice of how to represent the characters and their often lumpy bodies and other times due to the coloring. And then other times it comes together quite nicely, so there's just an odd bit of inconsistency that makes the entire package feel a little discordant.
There's a lot of great ideas here (gotta love crab bandits) and definitely a lot of heart, and I was still engaged with the package as a whole. Those bits of failed execution here and there do keep it from achieving its top potential though, and in the long run I'm just not going to really be able to retain too much of this story a year from now.
The trade is $14.99 and clocks in at 144 pages, so that's a solid deal for six issues worth of comics. Action Lab does generally decent work on their books too, but I will say that the title text on the cover of my copy was blown up from a low resolution file and it doesn't look too great. Ideally future copies were printed with the white title font you see at the start of this post.
If you're generally a fan of samurai stories or anthropomorphic comics then I would say this is worth taking a look at as it's a low cost package, but it's also a bit of throwaway entertainment as well. If you're looking for something a bit deeper or something that will stick with you more, then go pick up some Usagi books.