"I beg of you. Use your sword to rid our lord of these jackals at his side."
Lone Wolf and Cub is the story of the swordsman Ogami Ittō and his young son Daigoro. Ogami was once the Shogun's loyal executioner, but now he's a hunted rōnin (a sword for hire). Together, man and child travel a path beset on all sides by enemies; it's a path of vengeance that'll take them directly into Hell.
Structurally it's episodic. Ogami roams from village to village, contract killing for money to buy food and shelter, but the bigger picture is never forgotten: the hunt for revenge is the reason he moves that way and he won't stop until it's achieved.
He's a superb tactician and a lateral thinker as quick with his wits as he is with his sword. Even when all around is death and fury, his concern for Daigoro remains paramount. The bond between them is unshakeable.
Creator Kazuo Koike's storytelling is masterful. Every word has purpose. Ogami says very little, so when he does speak we know to sit up and pay attention.
Much of the time Kazuo lets Goseki Kojima's amazingly kinetic black and white visuals carry the story along. It's not the typical, clean-lined, big-eyed style you may picture when you hear the word 'manga'. It’s grittier with deft strokes of the pen. When the blood starts to fly, Goseki captures the intensity better than any other manga artist I've ever encountered.
I'm happy to report that Dark Horse chose not to attempt to translate words with no direct English equivalent. Instead, they included a short but informative glossary of terms at the back of the book to explain the meanings.
The book collects together chapters 01 - 16 of the original Lone Wolf and Cub manga (all of Vol 1: The Assassin's Road; all of Vol 2: The Gateless Barrier; and the first part of the stories from Vol 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger).
4½ twisted ropes out of 5