ChiSai: Duality #1
Written by Bart A. Thompson
Pencils & Inks by Francisco Paronzini
Grayscale by Jorge Mongiovi
Letters by Richard Nelson
Cover Colors By Mike Beals
Cover Price $3.99; Available Now
There comes a time in every person’s life when they must ask themselves the *tough* questions:
Who am I?
Where is my life headed?
What would I do if I were suddenly accosted by gun-toting assassins while taking a shower?
Well, friends, the answer to one or more of these questions (…prrrobably just the one…) can be found in the pages of Approbation’s new two-part mini-series, ChiSai: Duality.
ChiSai is the story of Shy, a badass martial artist with a dark past who is just trying to live a peaceful existence in relative isolation with her boyfriend and their daughter. When visitors of the masked and violent variety come a-callin’ (during the most personal of moments), Shy learns that said dark past (established in the original miniseries, ChiSai: Karma) has come back to haunt her. She is forced to leave her peaceful life behind to tie up loose ends and ensure her family is never threatened again.
This may read like an action movie plot from 1987, but in actuality, this isn’t a bad read!
The book opens with a fight sequence that takes the infamous shower scene from Psycho and tosses it in a blender with the opening suburban brawl from Kill Bill Vol. 1. It’s sudden, it’s violent, and yes, Shy is naked for the whole thing (yet… somehow, it manages to stay in the realm of PG-13 — lots of creative arm, shower curtain, and shadow placement). There is plenty of cool Bourne Identity-style weapon improvisation, and even a brief interrogation scene involving — I kid you not — liquid body wash.
Then the bullet-time kicks in.
This fight stretches across 14 pages (and Shy’s entire living room) and may just be the defining moment of the entire series. Because by the time it’s finished, you realize that in all the flashy action-fantasy comics you’ve ever seen, you’ve probably never seen a fight quite so realistic and believable (bullet-time notwithstanding) as this one. This is what makes the series special.
It’s just too bad the dialogue during these scenes can’t support that paradigm. For the most part, writer/creator Bart A. Thompson has a knack for quickly establishing a character’s voice and keeping it consistent throughout. His dialogue moves the story forward without seeming choppy or cheesy.
Where cheese does enter the equation is — ironically — during those realistic fight scenes. Each character — depending who’s winning at the time — spouts a running commentary of their inner thoughts, their observations of what the other person is doing wrong, and their personal philosophy on the nature of combat itself.
In other words, they monologue. And they monologue a lot.
Granted, if there is ANYwhere in the world where one can get away with monologuing, it’s in a comic book. Hell, Spider-Man’s entire career has hinged on it… but you have to do it right. You have to make it work. And, unfortunately, Thompson’s characters just come off a little too proud of themselves, a little too snarky, and very long-winded. Were he to hold back on that particular urge and let the fights speak for themselves, only allowing the characters to open their mouths when what they have to say holds more substance than, “Aww, did you run out of bullets? It’s a shame you weren’t counting… Too bad I was” (direct quote), he could improve the appeal of the book tenfold. Because outside of these moments, as I said before, his dialogue is good. He writes good conversations. He just maybe shouldn’t write quite so many of them…
Another flaw that really stood out for me was the occasional gaping holes in logic. For instance, if Shy is home alone, taking a shower… why is there a steaming iron in the living room ready to burn her assailant’s face with? Or, if Shy’s entire purpose is to ensure that someone is dead, and said target exits the bathroom wearing nothing but a bathrobe… HOW can Shy — a trained, seasoned assassin — only shoot this person in the chest (?) and not A) check the body (??) and B) not even NOTICE this person is not dead (???), not to mention how the hell this person even THOUGHT to wear body armor under their robe in the first place! For a protagonist we’re supposed to feel confident in standing behind, Shy sure seems to be making a lot of forehead-smacking decisions… and I don’t think it’s her fault.
These are glaring problems.
And yet… the rest of the story is okay. And despite the complete implausibility of this issue’s cliffhanger, I’m actually quite intrigued to see what happens in the next issue. If only for the inevitable knock-down, drag-out, gonna-make-Quentin-cry chick fight.
On the art front, penciler/inker Francisco Paronzini‘s work is a bit unrefined. Though he makes an admirable effort to pace out each bone-breaking combat maneuver, the images themselves lack weight and momentum. Still, his sequential skills are solid and the few shots he nails definitely show the potential for better work in the future.
Ultimately, the question you have to ask yourself — the one I’m here to help you with — is whether or not you should order this comic online, on spec, without being able to flip through it ahead of time. Is this comic worth the risk (albeit a $3.99 risk)?
I would say, if you are a fan of action movies… not action comics — which are mostly filled with poses and explosions — but movies in the vein of Kill Bill or The Bourne Identity or, hell, even American Ninja … where the hand-to-hand fight scenes are fluidly choreographed and executed… and if you are able to forgive the few errors in creative judgment that I mentioned above…
Then, yeah. I’d say give this title a shot. It’s a decent effort that, despite its flaws, surpassed my initial expectations, and makes me curious for other work by the same writer. I found the main character’s voice unique and her plight involving, and I’m looking forward to reading the next issue.
Decent, yet flawed, I give it a B-.
Available at IndyPlanet.