Samurai Jack has his own Clone Saga.
There’s just something about the Samurai Jack series that lends itself well to comics. Animation may be Jack’s true home, but many of IDW’s recent spinoffs have done a terrific job of replicating that tone and style on the printed page. Samurai Jack: Lost Worlds continues that trend. This first issue is a fun read for fans of the series, though the ending may leave you scratching your head.
This latest spinoff pairs writer Paul Allor (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and artist Adam Bryce Thomas (Sonic the Hedgehog) for a new adventure that has Jack battling one of his fiercest enemies yet – himself. Jack emerges from his hermetic existence to find a town ruled by his own doppelganger – a man determined to school an entire populace in the ways of the samurai and preach a message of noble self-sacrifice. It isn’t long before these two Jacks clash and the true nature of this doppelganger is revealed.
The premise is great. It has that trademark Samurai Jack weirdness in full force, blending samurai action, fantasy and even a healthy dose of science fiction into one satisfying concoction. But beneath the weirdness, there’s a genuinely charming look at the way Jack has become an icon to countless civilians he’s never even met. Is it truly a crime to steal his likeness if it helps inspire others to do good? Can Jack truly label someone an enemy when they live up to the samurai code better than he himself does?
Thomas successfully strikes that balance between honoring the look and feel of the source material while still bringing his own flavor to the table. The simple, angular character designs are bolstered by an added dose of texture and grit. Thomas also keeps the story clean and easy to follow, despite the fact that so much of it revolves around two nearly identical warriors talking and fighting. He ensures that both versions of Jack are different enough in body language and in cleanliness so that the action never becomes obscured. And the action really does impress, thanks to Thomas’ extreme angles and seamless transitions between dialogue and swordplay.
The script does start to lose its footing near the end. After revealing the true nature of the Jack doppelganger, Allor begins rushing through aftermath of battle and glossing over some of the key story beats. In any medium, slow, deliberate pacing is essential for a good Samurai Jack tale. This issue perhaps attempts to do too much in these final pages with too little room.
There’s also the fact that this issue does a surprisingly poor job of setting up the remainder of the series. Were it not labeled as a miniseries, fans could be forgiven for thinking they were reading a standalone one-shot. There’s only a vague sense that Jack is off on another cross-dimensional journey and maybe, possibly encountering more doppelgangers? It feels as though this book flew under the radar as it is, and for the first issue not to do a better job establishing a clear hook and premise is strange.