Katana #4

After Killer Croc chomped through her blade, Katana has to do some quick thinking, which is where writer Ann Nocenti and artist Alex Sanchez should come in to help on "Katana" #4. The problem is, the issue opens with a deluge of souls spilling out into the ether and the impactful part of the story goes with them. Nocenti has crafted a legitimately interesting quest for Katana to pursue in those loosed souls, but this issue spends too much time bouncing around to plumb those depths.

In the four issues of this series, we've been introduced to such very cool-sounding concepts as the Sword Clan, Clan of Daggers, the shattered Soultaker blade and the refugees from there -- Katana's husband, Maseo; a dragon; a samurai; a homicidal young girl and a potential oni who refers to himself as the Creeper. Nocenti has filled the title with lots of fun, fertile concepts, but those concepts need to be a little more fleshed out soon. Even Shun, the tattooed girl, is simply a plot device no deeper than a book, save for the fact that every time Katana wishes to glean information from the young lady, she has to interact with Yoko, filling a page or three in the process. In addition to the concepts mentioned above, Nocenti doesn't do anything with Killer Croc, who apparently was only brought in to break an unbreakable sword. The confrontation with the Creeper is poorly handled, hinting at a proposed one-shot that would come out in August at the soonest for background and info, despite the creature truly getting his first real appearance in this issue. To further muddy the shallow depths, the issue ends with no discernible winner and no clear explanation for what happened on the last page.

That last page is only three panels, but the storytelling indicates we would have been better off with at least one more still from the struggle. In an issue filled with artwork that falls below my expectations for this title, this page is exceptionally challenging. Throughout the issue, Sanchez's art is overly busy in "Katana" #4, filling characters with scratchy lines to designate depth or shadow, but instead simply add busy-ness. Not only that, it makes the characters, colored by a trio of color artists, melt into sameness and gestural existence. I'm hoping this issue is an exception and that Sanchez soon returns to the form he had in "Katana" #1.

Of course, none of that will matter if the story isn't worthwhile. Katana is surrounded by intrguiing characters, mysterious circumstances and boundless potential, but that potential needs to be transformed into detailed action and adventure in order for me to continue to find anything of interest here. Potential is a great thing in a story pitch, but for less prominent heroines like Katana, potential is something that doesn't keep a book on publisher's schedules for very long.

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