The idea behind a “Katana” ongoing series isn’t bad. Duane Swierczynski reintroduced the character for the New 52 in “Birds of Prey” two years ago, and her presence was always entertaining, if slightly underutilized. Now that her story’s being told by Ann Nocenti and Alex Sanchez, it’s been a series of diminishing returns. Eventually, it’s time to just sheath the sword for good.
Ignoring for the moment the idea that in the world of “Katana,” Japan is still some 300 years in the past — if the number of weapon clans, traditional settings and blood vengeance pacts that Nocenti packs into the story is any indication — there’s something that never quite sits right with “Katana” #7. Characters lurch in and out of the story with no warning, and no one comes across more than one-dimensional. Even Katana feels like a paper-thin version of herself here; for a character who had such a distinct voice earlier, it’s hard to swallow her talking to herself with lines like, “Damn, I missed. If I can twist my body mid-fall, I can land on the claw.” It’s not just clumsy expository dialogue, it doesn’t feel right for everything readers have seen before. Characters speak to move along the plot, not because it sounds logical. By the time it’s discovered that Katana doesn’t actually remember how her husband died, I just wanted to throw in the towel. This is something that should have built up for months (if not years), rather than coming out of the blue. It feels like Nocenti just throws in a twist for the sake of a twist, rather than having something that comes across in a naturalistic manner.
That’s ultimately the big problem with “Katana” that’s summed up so well in “Katana” #7. Scenes never quite connect with one another, just like plot points never do. If readers learned that “Nocenti” was a pen name for a group of writers who each tackled a different sequence, it would almost be a relief, because this comes across as too fragmented to be just one author. Past issues have had at least some fun and interesting big ideas, but that’s all absent here.
Sanchez is helped out by Fabrizio Fiorentino this month, and their art styles don’t mesh at all. Sanchez’s art is a little rougher and more detailed, while Fiorentino’s is very smooth and washed on the page. There are a few nice bits in the art this issue — I like the metal pipe panel borders that Sanchez gives us in the big two-page sequence — but on the whole, everyone’s face looks a little squashed under Sanchez, and expressionless under Fiorentino. This isn’t anyone’s best work, quite frankly.
Add in more heavy-handed nods towards other upcoming issues (if there’s one more footnote readers about Jack Ryder’s adventures in next month’s “Justice League Dark” spotlight on the Creeper, it’s going to be maddening) and it all adds up to an issue that is far, far, far less than the sum of its parts. I’ve tried to give this comic more tries than I should have by now, and with each issue it feels like things have further slid downhill. If a new creative team comes on board, I’ll take a look, but otherwise I feel this is a good a jumping-off point as any. Sorry, Katana. You were fun in “Birds of Prey.”