Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends volumes 1 & 2 of Eldo Yoshimizu’s ‘Ryuko’, out now from Hard Case Crime, an imprint of Titan Comics.

Required Reading: 'Ryuko'
Cover to ‘Ryuko, Volume 1’. Art: Eldo Yoshimizu/Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

by Arpad Okay. The goal is to connect a circle of violence and come out clean and free on the other side. Ryuko is an international struggle for yakuza power in overdrive, counted in spent shells and cans of gasoline. But the deep thrills are born from bravery—defending the family within “the family.” Ryuko, daughter of the dead dragon’s head, is a singular woman of terrific wrath and even fiercer mercy.

Eldo Yoshimizu turns the rulebook on its head with his action sequences. Ryuko blasts across the bottom of the page, through a warehouse window, in a leopard print jumpsuit and riding a Kawasaki. The gun wrenched from her rival’s hand flies over her head, the size of a billboard. This in turn is dwarfed by the sound effect of contact, rendered in Ryuko’s leopard print, big enough to obscure the action scene that produced it, deeply obscured across the top of the page. Yoshimizu makes dramatic and foundationally sound choices that defy the rules but still use them to run the eye backwards.

Yoshimizu’s sound effects are truly something else. The weight of a motorcycle hitting the shocks of a subway car deserves a noise that dominates the full page. The only thing that comes close to Ryuko is John Workman’s cosmic Thor work. Handled with the brevity and wit of translators Motoko Tamamura and Jonathan Clements, letterer Amoona Saohin sees a full page splash warrant a tiny  “THUD” placed just over there.

Yoshimizu plays the lettering to feel like the sound. A gearbox shift is clean, an engine rev vibrates, the two alternating steps in matching bubbles, a chain of action sound. Deafening gunfire doesn’t obscure its source when Yoshimizu makes the sound of gunfire cover the whole panel as a hollow frame you can see through. Having size match volume is a simple, genius way to transform a fuller action movie experience—the tremble of the boom—into a visual-only medium. Then the gunfire you see is sound, with dynamic lettering instead of muzzle flashes or tracer paths.

The action artwork’s intensity can border on indecipherable. Ryuko goes hard into intensity, parallel segments and texture tones so vigorously employed it can be hard to discern who is doing what outside of “everyone” and “ultraviolence.” Yoshimizu places each landed blow or pulled trigger at the eye of a hurricane. Deliberate, stylish, daring choices. Wild, chaotic pages. Ryuko is the fury but the reader sees red; our vision clouded, hers focused in on the kill shot.

Or she’s jumping tanks on horseback, stealing a train car with a helicopter, sniper rifles, motorcycles, crosstown traffic street chases. Yoshimizu is a gearhead, but Ryuko is more Lady Snowblood than Wild Zero. A worthy addition to the yakuza oeuvre: absolutely insane action sequences, family intrigue, and fabulous fashion looks come together to thrill like Avengers ’65.

The character design strikes an arcade console fighting game chord. It’s great. Jumpsuit tattoos, dapper eye patch, military plug, skate rat, cowboy hat daisy dukes. Enter a later challenger with K-Pop mischief stripe. Dragon head and China boss. Yoshimizu’s line style itself reminds me of Leiji Matusmoto, old school long strokes, with the occasional flex into something weirder when it suits the mood. A touch of classic art, Eldo’s sculptor side. Everything is long and slinky and luscious.

Ryuko is miles of legs and elsewhere also heavy on the skin, light on the dress. It’s pulp. It’s sleazy, but good sleazy. Well done smut, debonair smut, some ludicrous camera angels, some Aeon Flux bodies, nothing gross. No Bondboys exploitation bullshit. Ryuko’s sexuality is sensuality and style. The relationships are as tender as the gang rivalries are catastrophic.

Ryuko is all-around a product of people doing the right thing. Tankobon and mass market paperback come together in size, paper feel, crowned pistol trade dressing and cigarette pack red finish. Hard Case Crime and Titan go a step beyond seeing all comics as comics to publish novels, comics, and manga under one roof: pulp. Hard Case Crime is for readers. Now read this.

Titan Comics / Hard Case Crime / $14.99

Written by Eldo Yoshimizu.

Illustrated by Eldo Yoshimizu.

Translated by Motoko Tamamura and Jonathan Clements.

Lettered by Amoona Saohin.

Enjoy this 3-page preview of ‘Ryuko, Volume 2’, courtesy of Titan Comics!

More Required Reading…

‘The Hard Tomorrow’ an ambiguous, strong and delicate work from Eleanor Davis

‘Invisible Kingdom’ is a hyper-literate cosmic thrill

The Talbots’ ‘Rain’ a work of sublime tactile beauty