Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Classics - Frank Miller's Ronin #1

Hot on the heels of his enormous success with Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns, writer / artist Frank Miller tackled his most unusual project yet: Ronin.

(I defy anyone to explain how this mini-series has not been made into a movie, by the way.)

Miller used the occasion to combine different art styles, including a Moebius-inspired look at a fortress set in a grim, dystopic future (depicted in a much rougher, gritty style), and a stylized look at a masterless Samurai warrior (a Ronin) in ancient Japan.

The three are linked through the mind of a strange boy in the future, who somehow looks into the past to see the battle between the Ronin and a powerful demon.

It's a gripping tale that offers a number of surprises, some incredible action sequences and a unique storyline - especially for 1983.

This series, in combination with his Dark Knight work, marked a real turning point for Miller, both in terms of art and storytelling.

Given the freedom of being at the top of the industry, Miller walked his own path from this point on - continuing to work on superheroes (most notably Batman, Daredevil and Elektra), but eventually concentrating on his own creator-owned work, most especially his long-running (and widely varied) Sin City and 300.

His art, too, became more expressive, almost surreal at times, breaking news ground and establishing Miller as a master craftsman.

This mini-series is often overlooked in looking back at his career, but more than anything else, this marks the spot where he went from being a true star to being at the top of the industry.

Grade: A+


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