July 22, 2014

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Gyakushu by Dan Hipp

 And now for something a little more obscure...



Written and Illustrated by Dan Hipp
Published by Tokyopop
Available on Comixology
 
Odds are Gyakushu, pronouced "Gahhh-Phhbbbblll'tttishu'paphfooie", is probably something that you've never seen or heard of before.  And that's a shame because it's definitely something that your eyes need to be bathed in.

You need to prepare your eyeballs and let them drink in the awesome goodness that is Dan Hipp's GYAKUSHU!

At its core, Gyakushu is a take on a classic kung-fu fantasy style mash-up revenge tale.  It would sit nicely beside some of my personal favorite revenge flicks such as Kill Bill Vols 1&2, Oldboy, Memento, and The Outlaw Josey Wales, but what sets Gyakushu apart, aside from the horrible name which I've already made fun of (and can't seem to stop doing), is the shear confidence and master-class artwork dropped onto the page like a slap in the face from Dan Hipp.

I just can't stop looking at it.  Staring at it.  Living inside those panels.  They're so full of drama and emotional resonance and balls-to-the-wall action that they're impossible to just breeze by them.  You want to spend time with them, to make yourself slow down and appreciate just what you're seeing, and not rush to the end like the average comic.  The art is nearly perfect.  Usually I could nit-pick something about an artist's work like any other jerk, and say there is something they do that I'd prefer that they give up immediately (like Skottie Young drawing super babies), but there is absolutely nothing art-wise that Hipp does that doesn't strike me as brilliant in this work.

Hipp's style is definitely manga influenced but I would say it is equally influenced by cartoon/anime/cell animations.  It just seems an inch away from popping off the page and coming to life as animation.  It's begging for it, really.

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Hipp isn't your typical comic book artist, his style is so dissimilar to just about everyone else out there working that I can't think of a mainstream comic he'd likely fit on without mass fanboy suicide, but I'm sure he would crush whatever character or characters anyone gave to him. I'd pay my $3.99 to see this guy draw Sonic Adventures if that's what he wanted. That being said, I would definitely prefer Hipp do something that was creator-owned and original, something like Gyakushu, something straight out of his noggin with no filter. And... maybe a Spider-Man one-shot.
I first came upon Hipp and Mark Andrew Smith’s Amazing Joy Buzzards graphic novel one day at my LCS, killing time, and very quickly decided I had to have it.  To this day I don’t remember much about the story in Joy Buzzards, aside from a Yeti joke, but I DO remember the art.  So one of the first creators I searched for when I started a Comixology account was Hipp, one of my favorite artists for books I might not be familiar with.  Turns out this was immensely easier than diving into comic book back issue boxes.
The action delivered in this book is wicked, intense, and will leave you breathless.  It will drag you in, and not let you go until you wanna dress your head in bandages like the main protagonist and carry a sword down to the Quick-E-Mart on the corner just looking for trouble. The main character, and all the characters for that matter, look amazing - with an extra heaping of badassery poured into the bandaged protagonist. He's equal parts thief, samurai, ninja, and The Man With No Name. He is the ultimate anti-hero, a thief who was disfigured and left for dead, his family murdered, and one who only craves revenge.
The dialogue however, is greatly lacking. Sometimes when characters speak they just come off as very two-dimensional tropes. I actually prefer it when the characters don't talk in this book. I only say this because it's kind of jarring at first, but either Hipp gets better at it as the three volumes come to a close, or by that time you're just desensitized to it. Either way, it feels like he gets better as it goes on, and that's all that counts in my opinion. The real draw here is the art.
The villains are very cookie-cutter, faceless ninja types but they're completely forgivable as encounters with these guys lead to kick-ass action sequences. I suppose there's an analogy to be made between Gyakushu and popcorn action movies, although not the horrible shakey-cam visual abortions that are becoming vogue. I mean good popcorn flicks like The Raid or Pitch Black. Something you can just sit back and experience. And there is nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with this book either.
As far as I'm concerned, this book is a classic.
Give it a try! As of this time it's only $5.99 for the first volume on Comixology and it seems like the only place you can actually get the 3rd volume, which never saw print and was released as a digital exclusive. If digital isn't your thing then the first two volumes are very easy to find via Amazon or eBay and the prices for them are very similar to the digital versions. Personally, I read it digitally on an iPad and it was an excellent experience.
So check it out, and let me know what you think!  
Am I way off? Is it better than I said? I want to know!
'Til next time!
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