Turn Back the Clock
Writer/Artist: Kirk Abrigo
Distributed By: Colburn Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Kirk Abrigo had a dream – to publish his artistic creations in a comic book series format. In order to fulfill his dream, Abrigo started up an independent publishing company in Brooklyn, New York called Colburn Comics. Its flagship comic was to be a series about Samurai warriors entitled Samurai Guard. Abrigo’s philosophy, as written in a special “Thank You” page in the first issue of Samurai Guard, was that no matter what obstacles must be faced or how many times one gets knocked down, one must always rise to the challenge and go after their dreams. According to Abrigo, falling down or losing ground doesn’t make one a failure – staying down and not fighting for that dream does.
When issue # 1 of Samurai Guard first appeared in the comic book stores in 1999, I was unaware of its existence. I hadn’t heard one word about the comic book until a couple of months ago when I found four issues of the series. The artwork on the covers was intriguing and the fact that I enjoy reading about Samurai and ninja lured me in and I decided to check the series out.
Samurai Guard begins rather strangely. Instead of going straight into visuals and dialogue like most comic books, Kirk Abrigo opted to explain his world’s history prior to the opening of this story. It would seem that some time after 1876, Samurai warriors were no longer accepted as military leaders in Japan. Their primary purpose had been to protect the Shoguns of Japan, but after the last Shogun resigned in 1867, the Samurai were no needed. The Emperor created a new army and wanted the Samurai to disappear. With no rulers to protect and facing laws that continually stripped away their honor, four thousand Samurai and their families moved to Bushido Island, a land rumored to be plagued with bad soil, demons and other monstrous challenges.
The Samurai rose to the challenge of survival in Bushido Island and soon raised their own government. Laws were created that both protected the tradition of the Samurai culture and served as a defense against invasion or piracy. In order to enforce these laws, the Samurai Guard was erected. Serving as the island’s police force, the Samurai Guard had been extremely successful throughout the years, protecting both the Samurai who left Japan proper to live out their days on Bushido Island and all other Japanese who were invited to leave technology behind in exchange for an island life steeped in tradition. All was well on Bushido Island until the beginning of this comic book series.
Invaders land on the shore of Bushido Island but are thwarted by Captain Miamoto Benjamin Shindo and his division of Samurai Guardsmen…and woman. Yes, that’s right; there is a female Samurai Guard. I suppose some traditions are not as important when it comes to protecting the people and traditions of Bushido Island. After one of the invaders is captured, it becomes apparent to Captain Shindo (or Benji, as he is affectionately called) that the shore invaders were a distraction. The true invaders were a group of ninja warriors from Japan. One of the attacking ninja uses magic to “read” Benji’s shadow. The ninja warrior reveals that Benji has been hiding a secret – one that could destroy the Samurai of Bushido Island.
The artwork of Kirk Abrigo is not always perfect, but it certainly is colorful and eye-grabbing. Especially appreciated were the poster inserts as well as the fan art that Abrigo included in his issues. The lettering of the story is absolutely perfect – incredibly clear and legible. My only critique about the story’s lettering would be the initial information page. The lettering font used was difficult to read as the words seemed jammed together. One had to read very carefully to understand what was written on that first page. Afterwards, the story was very clear.
The secret past of Miamoto Shindo and its affect on the future of the Samurai order was very intriguing. Although there was one aspect of the story that I disliked – the tale of the Thunder God Raiden and his need to become human to face and fight an evil demon seemed like a direct rip-off from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation - I found that I couldn’t stop reading until I got to the last page of the fourth comic book. But, alas, there was no fifth comic book at my disposal and I was thus unable to learn the outcome. What was to be the fate of the Samurai on Bushido Island? Would Shindo’s secret be revealed? Who was this mysterious person who wanted to bring about the destruction of the Samurai in the first place?
So, I decided to search online for the answers I sought. I discovered that Ken Abrigo’s company had a website. Colburn Comics contained every issue of Samurai Guard in its entirety for viewing, as well as a couple of pages of issue #6. So, I was able to read issue #5 and get some views of the sixth issue and was still left unfulfilled. Why? Because, it would seem Kirk Abrigo fell off the face of the earth! There seem to have been no updates on his website since 2003 or 2004. Looking at the copyright dates on each of the comic books, I noted that the last issue I had (issue #4) was published in 2002. Since the first was published in 1999, I figured the comics were being published annually. But in 2004, both Kirk Abrigo and Samurai Guard seem to have disappeared. Even searching for Abrigo’s name on the internet revealed nothing past the year 2004.
What happened to Kirk Abrigo? What happened to the Samurai Guard?! It just figures that I would become a fan of a comic book that was already defunct! Mr. Abrigo, if you are out there, please, tell us how the story was supposed to end! Don’t leave us hanging!