• Yakuza Demon Killers (Trade Paperback)

    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: May 31st, 2017.
    Written by: Amit Chauhan
    Illustrated by: Eli Powell
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    In the Kabuchiko District of Tokyo, a woman lies in an alleyway against a dumpster, numb from the drugs she’s addicted to. Her wrists are bruised, there’s a belt tied snugly against her upper arm. As she falls victim to the high she starts to think death has come for her – and then she sees the beast. But the beast is not a beast at all, it’s a man named Rizzo who addresses her as Ochito before she vomits on his brand new sneakers. He tries to get her out of the alley before the cops spot her and lock her up, but before he can get her up she passes out into a pile of her own vomit. He gets her on the back of his motorbike and she vomits as he barrels down the Shuto Expressway. Junkie or not, Ochito is the best lock picker around and Rizzo needs her for a job.

    Elsewhere, a man in a cloak named Dodomeki does an arcane reading of sorts and tells another man named Gaikotsu that the prophecy has become reality. Dodomeki is rewarded for his work with some eyeballs to eat, Gaikotsu leaves to prepare.

    Rizzo and Ochito meet up with two Americans – Andy and Rich – and break into the Tokyo National Museum. As they make their way in they are trailed by a gang of thugs – Yuudai, Katashi, Tatsuya and an unnamed fourth man. As Rizzo and Ochito get closer to their target – an ancient samurai sword – the alarms are triggered. Rizzo knows they didn’t do it but Ochito wants to split, until he mentions that he has a buyer willing to pay ten million for it. She gets to work, picks the lock and it looks like things are going to work out, until a portal that seems to have been opened by Dodomeki and Gaikotsu opens up. At this point, a massive demon emerges and it eats Andy. Three more creatures emerge from the portal and Rich opens fire but it doesn’t do him any good. Ochito grabs the sword and it almost instantly starts to bind itself to her arm.

    And then those thugs, Yuudai and the rest, show up. Rizzo knows right away that they’re yakuza, but not regular yakuza – they’re demon killing yakuza!

    Ochita wakes up from a strange fainting spell where she had a vision of a group of cloaked cultists engaged in a bizarre chant. Rizzo snaps her out of it, just as Yakuza’s Katashi, Yuudai and Michi decide to kill the ensuing monsters to prevent them from getting to the nearby train station.

    What they don’t realize is that Akuryo, the self-proclaimed ‘devil of the deep,’ has been summoned. As Rizzo tries to split with Ochita, the fourth Yakuza, Tatsuya, stops them from leaving. He grabs a small elephant statue, places it in front of him, cuts open the palm of his hand and lets his blood drip down onto it. The statue instantly turns into a massive mammoth and lays waste to the demon horde, eating their carcasses. Just as it seems like the coast is clear, again Rizzo tries to get Ochita to split with him – but a surviving demon attacks. Ochita, still brandishing the swords, responds just in time, showing unusual prowess with the weapon for someone never trained.

    And then she faints again.

    ‘Elsewhere…’ Gaikotsu greets the demons he sent out to do his bidding. He and Dodomeki discuss their next move, noting the importance of following their master’s word to the letter.

    Ochita is brought to the Yakuza’s doctor who notes that the sword has fused with her hand and that it is transforming her tissue into… something. When the doctor attempts to cut it off at the Yakuza’s behest, Ochita snaps out of it and it’s the doctor who winds up losing an arm instead. The sword would seem to be protecting itself.

    And then the head of the Yakuza clan, Hayato of the Wakahisa family, gets involved…

    Ochita is trained for a year, getting over her initial fear of the demons and bonding with her sword. Hayato explains this to the different bosses of the various Yakuza families he meets at their annual summit. He asks their permission to bring Ochita into the Wakahisa Family. Some are appalled at the idea of bringing a woman – especially one with a drug problem - into a Yakuza family, others realize how important her role is in keeping their pact, the one they made years ago to work together to defeat the demons. Ironically, Goto – the one who makes the biggest stink about her drug use – is the one who controlled the territory where the drugs were sold to her. For the sake of tradition, he’s ordered to cut off his finger… with a butter knife.

    After the meeting we learn the real reason Hayato is so keen on bringing Ochita into their ranks – though he’d initially hoped the sword would fuse with one of his other soldiers, the plus side to using Ochita is that she is expendable. He also figures if they can eliminate the demons, that’ll give him the advantage when it comes time to try to take control over the country over the other families.

    Meanwhile, Rizzo is searching Tokyo for Ochita, with no real idea of where she has gone off to. Thankfully for him, she finds him – and he’s impressed when she does, she’s cleaned up her act in a big way. The reason she wanted to meet up with him was to invite him to the after party – she’s being inducted. Elsewhere, in Hell, the demons talk amongst themselves – the time is upon them, according to a prophecy, and so they act.

    Ochita’s training is complete, she’s now officially a Yakuza but when Gaikotsu and his demon horde attack during the celebration and a witch named Dodomeki gets involved, Ochita winds up taken down before she even really had much of a chance to retaliate, that strange sword having become one with her arm. When this fourth and final chapter begins, the powers that be at the Mifune (yes!) Corporation are upset that their secret feud has now been made public. Daichi feels that Hayato has lost control of the situation and insists that Goto be sent his way to deal with it.

    Rizzo is trying to get Ochito conscious again while a giant mammoth wreaks havoc across the square. Nearby, Katashi and Michi discuss the battle, they’re concerned that Tatsuya doesn’t have what it takes to defeat the beasts. Elsewhere, on some other plane, Ochitoa sees… things… things that cause her on the physical plane to spit up blood and snap back into it. Her first order of business? Punch Rizzo out. Ochita is definitely not herself, in fact, she just might be possessed by Rakt Naga, the evil presence that was trapped inside the sword that bonded with Ochita’s form. Gaikotsu is rewarded for his loyalty, as the possessed Ochita heads out to do battle with Tatsuya in mammoth form!

    Of course, as Ochita lays siege to Tatsuya, his comrades in arms attack her. It doesn’t go well and they flee to the tower they inhabit, the tower that is protected from demons – but Rakt Naga now has a human form. Meanwhile, Rizzo wakes up from that sucker punch and sets out to make things right…

    The ending of this four issue mini-series will probably take you by surprise, but at the same time, not so surprisingly it leaves things open for a follow up story. Chauhan’s writing takes things in a decidedly dark direction this time around. Some of the humor from the first three issues is here but it’s far less pronounced and to wrap things up, he definitely up the serious-meter a fair bit. It works. It feels right for the story being told and given how and why things play out the way that they do here it was the right decision.

    Eli Powell’s artwork, aided by K. Michael Russell’s coloring work, is as solid here as it was in the first issue. The style is a dark one, but again, it suits the story and the coloring goes along with it, never going too heavy on bright primaries or lighter tones too often, really only using those warmer colors to create contrast with the industrial cityscape or the dark characters that inhabit it.

    In addition to reprinting the four issues that make up the storyline, this trade paperback edition also includes some reference photos used for the locations featured in the book and a few pages showing the creative process behind the art – pencils to inks to colors to letters. Interesting to see it.