The Immortal: Demon in The Blood combines miniseries comics 1-4 into one volume, completing the story. The book features gorgeous full color art with both historical Japanese elements (the Shinsengumi!) with an alternate universe steampunk type Victorian Tokyo with supernatural elements. The results are stunning but the writing is uneven and characterization is the casualty of such a short 96 page book.
Story: At the end of the 1800s, Shogun controlled Japan is fading and a new era is dawning: one of a steam empire. For betraying the Shinsengumi, Amane is hunted and then attacked by his colleagues. Left to die, he is found by a tattoo artist who saves him – but the price is that Amane now houses a demon and is immortal. Changing his name to Enma at the death of the his tattoo master, he spends decades looking for the master’s previous apprentice – a man who also houses a demon and who murdered Enma’s sister. Taking the responsibility of caring for his former Sinsengumi colleague’s now orphaned daughter Natsu, Enma lives through the transition of Japan from feudal entity to steampunk nation. All the while searching for the other murdering apprentice; as fate would have it, the former apprentice will find him.
As mentioned above, the illustration work in this volume is absolutely gorgeous. If the story had been given more time to unwind (as with the original Japanese novel, Ura-Enma by Fumi Nakamura, from which this was taken), a lot of the story would have made much more sense and surely would have been more poignant. As it is, this felt very much like a Reader’s Digest condensed version of a really good story. We never get to know most of the other characters well and therefore never become invested in them (especially in the case of Natsu the daughter, Kuro the cat, and gaijin Jack).
There are clever twists to the plot and I was hooked from page one. The payoff at the end, though, came out of left field and really needed a Chekov’s gun in the first act to make sense of it. But all the same, it’s a novel I will enjoy rereading and simply enjoying the wonderful steampunk and feudal Japan illustrations.