Tales of the Moonlight Cutter
Created by Dale W. Berry
Additional inks by Sebastian Castillo
Covers by Daerick Gross, John Giang, Cody Baker, and Dale Berry
Cover Price: Various
If you’ve been following the most recent relaunch of Katana penned by Ann Nocenti, then you’ve probably noticed the baffling cultural stereotypes. Nocenti writes Katana in a way that pays little to no respect to her main character’s Japanese cultural heritage. All of this is to say that in comics, cultural diversity is not always treated with total delicacy and most of the time just ignored for something a bit more European.
It’s because of this reason that Tales of the Moonlight Cutter is such a refreshing comic series. As far as action comics, Tales is pretty standard business — a mysterious warrior travels through 12th century China destroying violent spirits with a magic sword that can put vengeful ghosts to rest. It’s nothing groundbreaking, however, what does make this book shine is that way in which creator Dale Berry treats the culture surrounding ancient China.
A comic hero who displays even the slightest hint of diversity is rare, it is made even rarer when the diversity is handled with an incredible amount of understanding and research. Tales adopts the storytelling style of Wuxia, which for over 2,000 years has defined fiction that is centered around a righteous martial arts master.
Berry, in this way, pays the utmost homage to the history that helped define modern martial arts storytelling with callbacks and a detailed knowledge of this ancient form of storytelling. It’s extremely exciting to see a creator understand a culture and understand it well. Unfortunately, beyond the respect paid to the culture that surrounds this comic, Tales struggles a bit.
The particular art style of Berry, although clean, suffers from a generally unfinished look. Panels vary in terms of consistency of shading and paneling. Additionally, fight scenes in this series (of which there are many) are often disjointed or hard to follow.
Tales of the Moonlight Cutter represents a type of comic storytelling that is unbelievably misrepresented in mainstream superhero comics. To offer comic audiences something beyond your bland ambiguously Asian karate master of samurai is brave. But ultimately, Tales of the Moonlight Cutter pays more attention to perfecting cultural accuracy that it does to crafting compelling action choreography.