Three issues into “Katana,” it’s hard to ignore that this is a book with some great individual pieces, but lacks a unified whole. Ann Nocenti and guest artist Cliff Richards do their best to provide a cohesive comic, but “Katana” #3 continues to be choppy and frustrating.
In a story where Katana prepares to go up against her enemies while Killer Croc preps for his own attack, there are lots of little moments that do work. Katana’s tips for being invisible (“Look, act, and move in such a boring fashion you fade from the room”) are great, for example, and the caption for Japantown as being where time telescopes sums up the neighborhood in a matter of moments. When it comes to those little glimmers here and there, Nocenti’s writing is pitch-perfect.
It’s hard to ignore that scenes don’t so much end as they halt in “Katana” #3. The two-page sequence at the Saki bar feels like there’s a third page missing, by way of example. After Katana throws the bowling ball — shouldn’t there be some sort of follow-up? A reaction? Something? That’s how almost every scene ends, too. The one-page vignette in Katana’s basement stops so suddenly that you’ll start to wonder if the pages are out of order. For a book about a character that’s supposed to be graceful and fluid, “Katana” #3 is anything but.
Richards steps in to provide pencils, and with four inkers it’s clear that this was a last-minute switch, so I’m willing to give the look a bit of a break. It doesn’t change matters, though, that Richards’ art suffers from the same mixed bag issues as Nocenti’s script. Some bits are good, like Katana’s initial flip through the air on the ship’s deck. It’s a little crazy and perhaps improbable, but there’s a fun nature to it that lets the reader just roll with the image. The fight between Katana and Killer Croc is a mess. Most of the panels don’t actually progress to the next, and the moment where Killer Croc gets the sword comes so out of the blue that we actually get a “SNATCH” sound effect added in to explain what the art fails to do. And after looking at Juan Jose Ryp’s reveal of the Creeper on the cover, saying that it’s a disappointing appearance at the end of “Katana” #3 is an understatement.
I want to love “Katana,” and when Nocenti describes escaping souls smelling of bitterness, mold, and yearning, I’m on board. But those little moments aren’t quite enough to hold my attention. If “Katana” doesn’t get a sharper edge soon, I might have to set this dulled comic aside.