The best thing about this new “Katana” series by Ann Nocenti and Alex Sanchez is that it feels very unlike most of the rest of the current DC line. While there’s almost a poetry to both the writing and art in “Katana” that’s intriguing and sometimes beautiful, this issue is unfortunately really inconsistent overall.
Nocenti has taken a somewhat odd approach to this book that’s unexpected and as a result refreshing and intriguing, but it doesn’t always work. There’s a smooth almost slow pace to the book that feels right. Even when Katana is fighting, it feels deliberate and focused rather than fevered and violent. The writing and the art match nicely in these scenes and are most certainly the strength of the issue. However, some of the plotting feels rushed and forced — like how Katana brings over a young opponent to her side of things — with almost no convincing or development, but instead because it’s what the story needs to happen.
Most jarring of all, however, are the two panels on the last page, clearly not originally planned for and jammed in to better tie the book to “Justice League of America” in which Steve Trevor asks Katana to come with him and she instantly agrees. It’s a sour note that feels as awkward as it sounds and it’s a terrible way to end the issue.
Sanchez’s art is also unexpected and highly enjoyable, but the lack of consistency is really an issue. Faces change wildly from page to page and even panel to panel. It’s most noticeable in Katana since she’s the star of the book, but it happens with almost all the characters. Fortunately, Sanchez’s storytelling is pretty clean and so the morphing faces don’t make the story difficult to follow, but it’s still incredibly distracting. Sanchez does some wonderful action here, which is where the poetry is. He chooses strange and exaggerated angles that work wonderfully and he’s bold in the choices he makes, for good or ill. Sanchez is also unafraid of facial expressions, which is a nice change from most comics, but may be aiding to the issue with characters feeling off model from panel to panel. Matt Yackey’s colors are a subtle blend that well fits the feeling of the book. There are pops of brightness and darkness as the story demands it, but in general it’s a soothing and realistic palette.
Though this issue is very uneven, especially the forced ending, there’s something intriguing in “Katana” that makes it unique to the DC line, and that’s a good thing. Two issues in, it struggles to find a strong and consistent voice, but given time there might be something worthy here.