Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Title:Kabuki Alchemy
Author: David Mack
Publisher: Icon

Kabuki was trained in the full range of martial art from an early age. When she was old enough she became an agent of the Noh Corporation - one of a group of characters who were allegedly made up for TV, but were actually enforcers and assassins. Working for the Noh, she found out that she had been betrayed. Realising the danger, the Noh Corp told the other agents that she had betrayed them. Injured Kabuki ended up under the protection of the Control Corp, and inter-corporate agency, protecting ex-agents.

While in the Control Corp hospital Kabuki receives a number of messages. A friend, called Akemi, plotting to help Kabuki break free. While at the same time the Noh plot to get and kill Kabuki. Akemi has transported Kabuki to America, where having been through the previous books Metamorphosis, Kabuki starts to undergo the process of Alchemy. The transformation of a leaden assassin to a golden girl.

Currently at its sixth issue, Kabuki: Alchemy is being published by Marvel's Icon imprint. Moving the series from Image Comics, who in turn had poached the original series from Calibre all those years ago. With Alchemy it seems that the Kabuki character has finally become more human. Part of this is the humour, the irony that writer /artist David Mack has brought to this story. What does an ex-agent of the Noh do for work in a new country? Why of course, she gets a job in Noh Land, a Noh Corporation theme park. But she has to start from the bottom, Kabuki is not allowed to play the part of Kabuki, rather she has the part of a cuddly cat called Kappa. Instead of being upset at not being able to play herself, she embraces the cat, starts referring to herself as Kappa in her letters to Akemi.

Kabuki is an evolving narrative. The art changing from black and white pencil work of the earliest material, to vivid, flowing montages. At the same time the story at this point seems to be constructed from letters, which as a comic could become incredibly dry, but not in Mack's hands. Kabuki crouched at home, balancing the cat head on her own, while writing the letters of her new life are wonderful images. At the same time, Mack keeps the big picture moving along - Kabuki has never been as simple as a quick summary might make it sound - with this most recent issue we have the arrival of MC Square, another guest of the Control Corp, and the raising of the question, who is Akemi really? And what is she doing with all the things that Kabuki and Square send her?

Undoubtedly Kabuki remains one of the most innovative, exciting and engaging works of contemporary graphic narrative.

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