With the current arc on Samurai Jack, Jim Zub has been exploring Jack’s past and how he got his fabled sword, a weapon that has been his constant companion on his dark journey to get back to his own time and defeat Aku once and for all. With the blade broken during a ritual to short-cut Jack’s journey, Jim has explored how the character has been reduced, and all the strange trials that await him now, which include him having to prove his worth to the glorious beings who created the blade in the first place and gifted it to his father.
In Samurai Jack #14, Jim shows exactly how Jack is tested by these supreme beings who stand as the grand judges of a cosmic battle between good and evil. And it is as brilliant issue as any of Jim’s other issues have been in this series. It is a beautifully executed issue that focuses exclusively on Jack, taking a look at everything he has learned in his life, and how he can move on from the dark events that surround him. Also, Andy Suriano, Ethen Beavers and Josh Burcham turn out another awesome-looking issue that really makes you feel at peace at times and is all about the details rather than the overall picture.
In the last issue we saw that Jack was brought before three cosmic beings, representing facets of Egyptian, Norse and Hindu mythology. It was a very interesting twist that Jim takes further in this issue, as we see how each being represents a different philosophy that extends to the teachings that Jack has learned in his life. It is not something you’d generally expect to see in Samurai Jack of all books and almost has a whiff of the superhero about it, though even that is not a close-enough example. Imagine that you are reading something about Thanos or Darkseid and the focus is on the long-game with lots of philosophy, internalization, and abstract things.
And, this is an issue that does not focus on action in and of itself. It is merely a way for the story to progress. We have had lots of stories with action so far, and even a few that have been very character-driven without much action. The new issue is one where most of the action happens off-screen and we see merely the prelude and the epilogue of the big battle.
There are three tests that Jack must pass before he is judged worthy enough to possess the sword again. The implication here is clear when the Egyptian entity explains the cosmic history to Jack, that his father was judged as he was and found worthy. The sword was passed down to Jack as an heirloom and thus he never had to prove himself. That’s what this entire arc is about really, and also to show how Jack might be incomplete without the sword, but he is certainly no weakling and that he is no slim pickings for Aku.
The issue has a very fast pace and Jim practically flies through the material, but that also works out rather nicely since spending too long on any single trial might devalue the whole point. And it also gets across the general urgency of the story and the cosmic beings themselves in the way that while years are a great amount of time for mortals, for cosmic beings such a passage is nothing more than a blink of an eye. So there’s quite a bit to unpack here and Jim does each concept the justice it deserves, which is all that I wanted out of the story when it started.
Andy, Ethen and Josh have a lot of things to do in this piece of artwork, not the least of which is that they need to adequately portray the cosmic beings, and it is in the small details that the artwork really comes alive such as split-panel page where the Egyptian entity gives Jack the cosmic history. And each test is different to the other, with different locations and different threats, so there’s quite a bit of diversity to the artwork and the visual story. I loved the artwork, as I usually do on this book and together Andy, Josh and Ethen make a solid team.
Given teh cliffhanger ending here, some big things are in story for Jack in the next issue and I can’t wait for whatever is going to happen next. Trust in Team Jack!