The Path: Crisis of Faith
by Ron Marz, Bart Sears
(CrossGen, 2002)

The Path: Crisis of Faith shows the beautiful art form of the graphic novel -- a marriage of storytelling through language and visual imagery. The setting is a far-off land (presumably somewhere in the East) and involves samurai warriors.

The prequel tells the backstory of Todosi, a samurai warrior, and of his life and death. Todosi's death has a profound affect on his brother, the monk Obo-San, and the events surrounding his death are the catalyst for the main story of The Path. Obo-San makes a decision and two warriors loyal to his brother, Wulf (a displaced Viking) and Aiko (a female samurai), choose to stand with him. Any more information would spoil the wonderful "path" this story takes.

The story is intriguing and well-told, but it is the method by which it is told that makes Crisis of Faith so enjoyable. In lieu of the traditional pencil-inking-coloring art, the inking takes precedence in shaping the figures, content and mood. In many scenes, it's not what you are shown -- it's what you're not shown, that matters. Chapter 2 has an excellent scene told in this manner. Luckily, the copious amount of fighting and bloodshed avoids falling into a proto-typical gore-fest, thanks to selective imagery.

While the title refers to the underlying theme, it also serves as a self-referential metaphor as a different "path" for visual storytelling. Horizontal scrolling across two pages replaces the typical one-page sequential format. (Of course, there are some exceptions, such as the first and last pages of the chapters, as this collection originally was released in a monthly issue format). The horizontal flow of the stories is reminiscent of eastern scrolls instead of the western tradition of pagination.

This work of art deserves heaps of praises. It is a masterful work of storytelling. The only problem with this type of storytelling is the book-binding encumbering the images. I had to fight my inner comic-book geek instincts and bend the spine just a little-bit-more. If only Crossgen had a scroll-type printing press....

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 12 July 2003

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