Peach Momoko has seriously changed the way you can tell a Marvel Comics story, evident with Demon Days and this week’s Demon Wars. An adaptation using Marvel’s biggest superheroes doesn’t have to be a one-to-one retelling, and Momoko takes it further by entwining the mythical archetypes of Marvel heroes with Japanese folktales. That winning combo continues this week.
Demon Wars: The Iron Samurai #1 is the start of a four-part story roughly playing off Marvel’s Civil War. The connection is loose as Momoko brings spirits, demons, monsters, and magic into the narrative while continuing the adventures of Mariko Yashida. Picking up where we left off in Demon Days: Blood Feud, Yashida can now see creatures in everyday life that aren’t visible to anyone else. Soon we learn they’re not bothering her for anything but are asking her to join them on a new adventure in a magical world.
As with the previous chapters in Momoko’s stories, one of the biggest joys in reading this book is seeing how she draws familiar characters with her take. Iron Man, for instance, is a samurai, while Carnage is a kind of spirit beast. Other characters pop up like Black Panther, who add connections to Marvel but are also brand-new characters in their own right.
The idea of Marvel characters being modern-day gods and myths we worship is an element that makes this series work. We’re witnessing different forms of the Marvel Comics, sometimes in literal god form.
This first issue continues to be co-scripted by Zack Davisson with letters by Ariana Maher. The dreamlike quality of the narrative is strong thanks to Davisson’s dialogue and captions, while Maher supplies equally dreamlike captions. One example in one scene has white captions hanging in a panel of complete darkness, framing Mariko’s head. Davisson has these characters speaking in an old-world, almost medieval style, which adds a layer to the character work as well.
What has become a recurring element of Momoko’s world is that this narrative can feel impenetrable and hard to understand. Add the fact that there is only a loose connection to Marvel, and this story doesn’t draw you in very easily.
The art continues to be beautiful in Momoko’s watercolor style. The sequential storytelling aspect is a little less abstract here, and it’s clear Momoko is getting strong in that aspect. There are fewer wow-factor panels and pages, however, but there’s no mistaking there’s nothing else like this visually in comics today. The page previewed above, however, is a showstopper for sure.
The main conflict established in this issue involves helping a demon Carnage and returning him to his full power, but it’s strange to see the Iron Man samurai attack with little thought. You end up rolling with the story, but in multiple cases, more could be done to explain or set up who these characters are and why they act the way they do. It’s made clear why some of these creatures want Carnage returned to normal, and others don’t, but we barely know this world and how it functions to understand which side is right or wrong.
Demon Wars: The Iron Samurai is a good start to a story about spirits in conflict, melding Marvel and Japanese folklore in intriguing ways.
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