Drifters, Vol. 1
by Kohta Hirano
Dark Horse, 216 pp
Rating: Teen (13+)
Drifters is the newest series from Kohta Hirano, creator of Hellsing, and it gets off to a rather interesting start as a samurai warrior on the brink of death finds himself dropped into a fantasy world full of dragons, elves and more.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Hellsing, gave it a try but it just failed to hook me or pull me in at all. Drifters fares a little better in this regard mainly due to how straight forward it is. The plot revolves around two warring powers plucking figures from Earth’s history and pitting them against each other for some unknown reason. The whole thing seems to boil down to a child like “my guys can beat your guys” action figure battle. Sure, the mechanics and motivations for the powers doing this are unknown but does it really matter when you’ve got Joan of Arc facing off against Billy the Kid and the Carthaginian general Hannibal? For the most part the book focuses on a new comer to the world, Toyohisa, a warrior from the Battle of Sekigahara, as he arrives and.. well, throws himself into the battle without batting an eye. The exact role that Toyohisa or the other two Japanese warriors he stumbles across will play in the larger scheme of things is still unknown at this point and it looks to be a key factor in the series in general.
Hirano’s artwork is pretty unique looking. He eschews much of the stereotypical traits associated with manga artwork and gives us something that’s a bit rougher but still stylish and interesting. His characters swagger across the page with long lanky limbs, exploding into brief moments of blood soaked carnage. There aren’t any decompressed one on one duels in this volume and most of the action is resolved in a matter of pages, if not panels. He does a fantastic job at conveying a certain sense of madness in several of the characters. The only disappointing bits of the artwork for me came with the gag bits where he fell back on something that was reminiscent of chibi-ized characters for humorous reactions and the like. It’s hard to make that click with me, especially in a book that’s as action packed and butch as this one. Instead it simply takes me out of the story and the moment completely. It’s also not funny or cute at all, but hey.
Drifters seems like it could have quite a bit of potential and fun about it as long as it doesn’t start to take itself too seriously. If Hirano can keep it at a level of tons of historical figures beating the crap out of each other for some vague and nebulous reason then I think this is a winner. At any rate I’ll definitely be attacking around for volume two. Mindless violence and big dumb action scene’s have their place in my entertainment menu after all.
Drifters, Vol. 1 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.