REVIEW: “Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender”

(Onrie Kompan Productions, 2009)

Review by Brad Gischia

Writer – Onrie Kompan
Artist – Giovanni Timpano
Colorist – Adrianna De Los Santos
Letterer – Joel Saavedra
Co-Writer/Editor – David Anthony Kraft

I remember the moment I realized that I enjoyed history. I was in high school, probably sophomore or junior year, and Mr. Sundeen was explaining the battle of Midway. How it impacted the course of the battle of the Pacific, what was at stake for the Allies if they failed, and then the bell rang. (The Midway Islands, for those of you who haven’t cracked a book in a while that doesn’t have staples in the spine, is west of Hawaii and, if it fell would have stabilized Japanese control of the Pacific.) I didn’t know where the hour went, and was a little disappointed when I found out the next day that we had moved on to something else. History is full of men and women who do things that no ordinary person is able to. Enter Onrie Kompan and his graphic novel Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender.

This is the true story of the Japanese attempt to attack the Asian mainland through Korea in the 1590’s. Not exactly current events, but Kompan has taken his not to be underestimated writing skill and his love for the history of the area to bring this time to life, and that of the hero of the war and the comic, Yi Soon Shin.

The emperor of Japan has decided that the conquest of all Asia should begin with the Korean empire, it’s tiny neighbor to the west. They see Korea as an easy target, a few quick skirmishes that will send the emperor of that land into hiding and scatter their military. And they would have been right, if not for Yi Soon Shin.

Born as a commoner, Yi Soon Shin rose to the heights of Admiral in the Imperial Navy. He built his branch of the navy with only the ships at his command, training his men in the use of heavy artillery and making them the strongest force in the Sea of Japan. He was never defeated in battle. The comic follows the decisive battles of his career, but Kompan also draws the reader in by adding personal elements, such as an affair with a nurse and the internal conflict with other members of the Imperial Navy. The final battle throws two undefeated commanders at each other in an epic finale.

I will say one thing on the subject matter. Kompan is realistic in his depiction of war and the casualties of war in the 16th century. There are many violent and gory images that would not be appropriate for younger readers, so use your own judgment when buying this book. That being said, I did think that the violence was used appropriately to depict the horrors that were unleashed during these battles.

Five hundred years later he is still remembered and has now been further immortalized in this comic with the help of Giovanni Timpano. His artwork has brought this time to life for the reader. His skill allows us to focus on the individual character, and at the same time he can draw huge battle scenes effectively, showing the scope of a 16th century naval battle, as well as the gruesome closeness of death on every hand.

Onrie Kompan has brought a great deal of work to play in writing this. His concise writing and the beautiful renderings by Timpano have made this book a great read. If you like history and heroes, and what fan of comics’ does not, this will be a great addition to your bookshelf.

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Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter:  @comicwasteland

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