Fifth Degree: Shinku by Ron Marz & Lee Moder



by Josh Crawley

You may have noticed that we’re listing Ron Marz and Lee Moder’s Shinku ashcan this month. Since I already have a copy, I thought I’d give some of my thoughts on it, and if you were on the fence about trying it, hopefully I can push you off the fence and onto the side of “Buy!”

I recall Ron first mentioning this ashcan last fall. I don’t know exactly what about the description grabbed me first, but black, white and red always sticks out in my mind. Add in vampires and a healthy dose of Japanese flavor and I’m pretty much transfixed. Amazingly, I forgot to ask Ron if he had the ashcans when I finally got to meet him face-to-face this past April at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (that’s what C2E2 stands for)! After charming Ron with promises of slaying sparkly vampires, he was nice enough to mail me a copy of the Shinku ashcan.

I’ve become a pretty big fan of Ron’s work over the past decade. While many people may speak ill of various Crossgen business decisions (and yes, some of them were unwise), we got Ron & Jim Cheung on Scion because of them. I love that book! If I ever win the lottery, I will find some way to get new Scion stories from them. I really, really liked The Path, too, whether it was drawn by Bart Sears, Matt(hew Dow) Smith, Mark Pennington, or any of the other great talents on that book.

As many customers at the retail store can tell you, I push his Top Cow universe stuff like, well, a dealer. (I’ve been known to offer full refunds on Witchblade Volume 1: Witch Hunt out of my own pocket.)

Needless to say, I wasn’t too worried about the writing being up to par, and I wasn’t let down; a touch of badass action and the cliffhanger left me wanting more!

Shinku preview

Shinku preview

Moder’s artwork I don’t know so well. Honestly, I only ever recall seeing it years ago in Legion of Super-Heroes, in the post-Zero Hour reboot. While it worked well enough, it never really grabbed me. Between the combination of fifteen years’ experience, inking his own work, and a different subject matter, I’m now much more likely to check out Moder’s work. The line work’s still fluid, yet there’s an edge to it. I would have thought the change in line work was just for Shinku until I read the first two issues of Dragon Prince released in 2008. Unlike some artists, he also seems really comfortable drawing clothing and backgrounds, and he does a great job spotting blacks. You’d think that would have to be a given doing a book with so much black and white, but that isn’t always the case.

And I can’t forget the red! Anyone who’s read the Grendel Black, White & Red stories knows how awesome the effect can be. The colors (and digital inks) are by Matthew Waite, who I don’t know anything about, but he’s on Twitter, so I’ll follow him! While I think more red could have been used in general, the usage in this story is very deliberate, and I’d definitely prefer it be used sparingly than overused.

Someone familiar with Ron’s Top Cow work provides the letters: Troy Peteri. You may also recognize him from work he’s done for Archaia Comics and Boom! Studios. Lately, his work has been a huge influence on my lettering. While I wouldn’t always make the same choices, he does a great job that very frequently gets over-looked, as do many other letterers unless someone is complaining (which very well may not be their fault).

While I’m not leaving anyone out, Phil Smith does some great design and production work, making the entire package look great. You might be more familiar with his work on all of the Top Cow graphic novels the past few years. If you aren’t the kind of person who pays attention to that kind of thing, take a look.

As I said before, I hope I pushed you off the fence; if not, no worries.

Be on the lookout for a Shinku publishing announcement from San Diego Comic-Con International in just a couple of weeks! (We’ll still have the ashcans available for order for a couple of weeks after that!)

Josh Crawley is the tenured Master of Disaster at Westfield Comics. He is not the keyboardist for Everclear.
Westfield Comics
7475 Mineral Point Rd STE 22
Madison WI 53717


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