Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Motorcycle Samurai, Volume 1: A Fiery Demise by Chris Sheridan Review

From page one I knew this was going to be bad: the Motorcycle Samurai monologues about sand like Anakin does in Attack of the Clones. “I hate sand. It gets everywhere and…etc.” (throws up). Holy fuck, is there a worse way you can start your book? 

Set in a kind of Mad Max-type world where it’s the old west but there are motorcycles and other automated devices, the Motorcycle Samurai is a bounty hunter with a sword who delivers her latest catch to the town of Trouble. But trouble is all she’s going to find as the bounty turns out to be related to the goons who run the town...

The story sounds straightforward and yet writer/artist Chris Sheridan manages to make a complete mess of things with writing and plotting so sloppy I felt like I was reading a Marvel or DC comic! 

The Motorcycle Samurai herself never becomes more than the name. There’s no backstory to her “character” and nothing to indicate she’s anything more than your generic ass-kicking heroine. How did a samurai become a bounty hunter? Is there a story behind her motorcycle given that it’s in the title? Or maybe there’s a story behind her mystical sword? And if she hates sand so much, why is she working in the desert? Is the whole world a desert thanks to some apocalyptic event? What did happen to the world? No fucking clue on any of that. 

She drives a motorcycle and has a sword. She fights, she spouts drivel, she fights some more. Are we even supposed to be rooting for her - why would we like her exactly and who the hell would give a shit about this bland character?! 

Then we get into the story which unfolds like Ikea furniture (along with the requisite confusion and frustration). The Motorcycle Samurai is made an offer by the ruling gang and then the sheriff is knocked out, and then some new character, who’s important I think, winds up in jail, and then a new character in a mask shows up, and Motorcycle Samurai can’t leave for some reason, and then they all fight, repeating the book’s subtitle “Fiery Demise” over and over like camels. 

Beyond the initial setup I never understood what the story was or what was happening. Pointless sidetracks take up entire chapters - we see a chain gang, a balloon, and an explosion which has nothing to do with anything - and other scenes like the Samurai fighting a gang of nobodies or the sheriff bare-knuckle boxing, which are there to show us the characters are tough, go on way too long. 

Sheridan simply can’t bring his paper-thin creations to life with any single action and their dialogue is a pitiful pastiche of archetypes. And when we’re not subjected to the writing we’ve got page after page of inane violence. It really is a painful chore to trudge through this thick mire of awfulness. 

I didn’t care for Sheridan’s art either. It’s a lot like Jeff Lemire’s early work - think Lost Dogs-style art, very loose and wavy lines - and it’s clear Lemire’s an influence; Essex County appears on a shelf in the background of a panel. He might aspire to Lemire’s early work but he is a long, long way from that level of quality. 

In the last few pages, the Motorcycle Samurai echoes my sentiments about this comic perfectly: “Next time… do some better damn planning.”

The Motorcycle Samurai, Volume 1: A Fiery Demise

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