Lone Wolf and Cub 1: The Assassin's RoadThe Japanese have a history of graphical storytelling that's infused into their heritage. One of the most respected of the modern manga (the Japanese word for comic) is this, Lone Wolf and Cub. This first volume introduces us to the character of Ogami Itto, the Lone Wolf of the title, and his son, Diagoro. Ogami has chosen to relinquish his samurai past and take the path of the ronin - a wandering, master-less samurai who earns his living as a sword for hire. Diagoro, despite being a mere toddler, is also considered for hire and will often be used as part of a trap set for the Lone Wolf's next victim. Even Diagoro's pram has a shielded steel underside and conceals weapons should Ogami's trusty sword be taken away from him.
Here we have nine stories that show a number of sides to the assassin's character. The plotting is tightly scripted, letting the visuals do the hard work when necessary. And the artwork itself is gloriously cinematic, obviously influenced by directors like Akira Kurosawa, the black and white of the page giving it the feel of a classic Japanese samurai movie.
The reprint format for this series feels a little small, though the main benefit is that they're conveniently shaped for carrying around if you're interested in reading graphic novels while you travel.
No matter what size it's printed in though, this is a classic series that any fan of Japanese samurai culture should pick up. There's a mammoth quantity of work in the series but start here and follow it up when you can, and you won't be disappointed.
Dark Horse Comics
Next in series
Lone Wolf and Cub 2: The Gateless Barrier