A child assassin named Sang is hired to intimidate a low-rung Yakuza leader, and he’s successful. He returns to his trainer and surrogate father, but the mafioso who hired our hero is unhappy with how far he went in his intimidation. This leads to a confrontation, and Sang may have to fight an employer.
The Ballad of Sang #1 has wild tone issues. It’s startling how much this comic doesn’t seem to know what it’s putting out there. It’s easy to compare the character of Sang to Hit Girl, but even that character isn’t perfect. However, there is at least some understanding that Hit Girl has been turned into a psychopath by her father.
The odd thing is, this comic could probably have worked if the protagonist were simply an adult. It’s hard to get past the fact that this is a child violently murdering people.
That issue is compounded by the comic hastily trying to establish a genuine father-son relationship between Sang and his trainer. The trainer even directly tells our protagonist that they have a good relationship and he sees him like a son, absolutely tearing up the “show don’t tell” rule. In any case, the comic seems to miss that the trainer is a terrible person for turning Sang into this and presenting this situation as functional is uncomfortable, at best.
In any case, the comic really doesn’t seem to know what it’s toying with. It could double-back on this in follow-up issues, but this opener doesn’t inspire any confidence.
Alessandro Micelli’s artwork is an effective mixture of grit and light anime styling. The cartoonish extreme facial expressions and over-the-top gore would work very well in a more straightforward hard-bitten action comic. It looks great here, despite the tone-deaf narrative. Shari Chankhamma’s color work is quite good too. It focuses on darker and grimier colors contrasted by occasional bright streaks for contrast.
The Ballad of Sang #1 could be a very fun comic, and, if someone else is entertained by the gory and extreme action, I could certainly see why. However, the tone issues and seemingly ignored elements that should be writ large in the plot drag it down. As such, I can’t quite recommend this one. Give it a pass.
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