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From a Library: Shimura

Robbie Morrison, Frank Quitely et al.

The ‘et al.’ after Frank’s name is quite important; he only illustrates the first story (and a short, sexually charged tale, Judge Inaba: Babes with Big Bazookas) but his shadow falls over the remaining stories, even if he didn’t design the character (that honour goes to Colin MacNeil). His slender, fluid characters and vivid rendering of an unusual setting set the tone for the proceeding stories, which never match his original version.

The concept of Shimura is so blindingly obvious, I am stunned that it hasn’t been done before; essentially, it is a Japanese Judge Dredd, set in the same time and world as the Mega City One lawman, but building on the technological superiority of Japan and mixing it with the samurai ethos, especially the devotion to duty (and the cool fucking swords). This trade collects the various Shimura tales printed, including a crossover with Judge Dredd himself, making it a hodge-podge of disconnected tales.

The first story (and probably the best) follows Shimura and his cadet, who becomes the first female Judge in Hondo City (Judge Inaba), as they fight the corruption of the Yakuza. The story mixes in the futuristic tech that is the basis for a lot of manga and the divine art of Quitely to set up a world and setting for further stories. Shimura is the brilliant samurai warrior with a strict code of ethics, which lead to him becoming, in essence, a ronin, as he breaks away from the judges and becomes rogue in the later stories.

With the exception of the second story, dealing with Yakuzas and corruption in the Judges, most of the stories are short and disposable, with the art quality varying in style and mood. Morrison has done plenty of research into Japan, liberally sprinkling the stories with references and authenticity, but the spark isn’t always there, even if the central idea is a solid one.

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