Writer: Cullen Bunn, Art: Ramon F. Bachs, Colour: Stephane Paitreau.
The first issue of Roku opens with action-packed narrative in Hong Kong, where our protagonist Roku has been sent by The Jade Union to assassinate criminals from around the world. In her own words: a monster sent to hunt down other monsters. Roku the redhead is an assassin; for good payment, she will travel anywhere and work for anyone. From Hong Kong to New York to Moscow, the story travels through three time zones.
The most interesting thing about Roku is her red hair: it acts as a weapon with brains of its own. It stretches, binds, and kills oh so well! I loved the part where her hair creeps under the door and slashes and hacks people on the other side (this is from the preview of the second issue though). But the world Roku inhabits is not a simple world of good and bad. There are secret scientific researches happening which can change the face of modern warfare. On her latest mission in Moscow, Roku has to retrieve a package. From then on the plot kind of takes a very formulaic pattern of identity narrative.
The colouring of Roku is very competent; it’s vibrant and balanced. The use of light and shadow for the big reveal in the splash page was wonderful. The dialogues are bit clichéd, but it works out as the story is just opening up to a bigger scheme. The panelling, too, followed the standard styles, all combined together to make a decent read. Roku also has her own speech bubbles and coloured lettering; a helpful move for readers to understand when she is talking inside her own head and when she is speaking out in the open. The action sequences were definitely good and enjoyable; who doesn't like two deadly women fighting each other tooth and nail for a mini-climax.
Roku as a character reminded me of Violet Song from the movie Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux from the movie Aeon Flux. She is goal-oriented, ruthless and she can improvise when in a pinch. What I loved was Roku’s costume, though body-hugging to show every curve on her, it’s not an impractical massacre of patches that barely covers the breasts and the nether regions. It’s a proper bodysuit that can protect her from various assaults and has lot of features too!
Roku is also an interesting moniker for a protagonist. Roku means numerical six as well as divine grace in Japanese. I wonder what her name means here; is she the sixth-best assassin in the world, or is she literally the divine justice in this world, who has been manipulated by the evil forces to work for them?
The cliffhanger and the big reveal, like all Who Am I stories hint at Roku being key to something that will change the worldview. I can smell the possibilities of a technocracy and information war from the way the first issue has ended. How far are we willing to leap into the abyss if we know not what we want? Roku definitely doesn’t know what’s coming for her but she took the jump.
Aeon Flux (2005)