The Book of Five Rings from SmarterComics - Miyamoto Musashi, D.J. Kirkbride, Mark DosSantos, Cullen Bunn ****************

Full Disclosure: I won this as a GoodReads giveaway.


The purpose of this SmarterComics series is to take the written works of old masters, in this case Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings, and spin it anew with illustrations to make the works more accessible to the public.

However, while I appreciated the concept behind this comic, I'm afraid the execution made me give it 1.5 stars.

The art was simple and generally clear, but the color scheme was a bit dull, especially for the action scenes, while a more vibrant red or black could have brought the images more to life.

Also, the comic itself had no development or story behind it. I guess that's understandable to an extent, as the purpose of the comic is to relate Musashi's work. However, the artwork matched itself literally to the text. For example, the text would say "Your teacher is a needle, and you are the thread" and the illustration would be of an old man with a needle and thread. Then, in the very next frame, it would say "You must practice constantly" and the illustration would be of a young samurai hitting a dummy with a wooden katana with no transition whatsoever.

Also, the chronological shifts between ancient and modern day interpretations of the text bothered me. The text would say "The carpenter uses a master plan of the building," and the frame would show a modern-day carpenter.

Overall, I think the transitions between illustrations need work. Even if there is no story, per se, the comic read like a collection of images rather than a coherent whole. I also did not like the exceedingly literal interpretation of the text. I would have pegged this book for the younger age group, but some of the content seems more adult-targeted with references that children may not get.

Overall, 1.5 stars.