Review – The Ballad of Sang #1 (Oni Press)

Sang Comes Out to Play in The Ballad of Sang #1

Child assassin Sang has never been much of a child. When you are raised to be a ruthless killer your childhood kind of goes out the window. The only “friend” or “family” Sang has—or should I say had—was his master, Chen. Well, Chen is dead now and Sang has every gang in the city after him. He is wanted alive if possible—if not, wasted. Now the mute child assassin Sang is on the streets of Japan alone and on the run for his life in The Ballad of Sang #1.


The Ballad of Sang #1 Oni Press cover by Marley Zarcone
cover by Marley Zarcone

Ed Brisson starts off  The Ballad of Sang #1 with a bang. As he noted to me on Twitter The Ballad of Sang is a “love letter” to the B-Movies of the 70’s/80’s and cult classic Asian films. You can certainly tell and feel his influences with each and every page. The story emulates those classic tales and tropes perfectly. You got the ruthless assassin kid, and his old-man master, Chen, who seems nice yet is kind of mean too. You have your seedy mob boss, tons of violence, some nice comedic beats, and an overall funky vibe.

The Ballad of Sang #1 plays out just like an opening act to one of those movies. The story opens fast and furious and then we slow down to learn a little about our protagonist, until it heats right back up again. Brisson ends the first issue on a nice cliffhanger that promises a lot more action and some crazy new possibilities.


Alessandro Micelli handles the Art duties in The Ballad of Sang #1 and he nails the tone of this series perfectly. Micelli’s style reminds me a little bit of almost a Samurai Jack type feel. Except it’s a little looser and dirty with the ink lines, and the characters are not as boxy and more detailed. Where Micelli really shines is the design of the series and its characters. I love this weird, seedy Japan they have created. The book just has this vibe to it that is hard to explain. I love that all the gangs have a theme or a wardrobe—it is one of my favorite things in the world in any type of media and I cannot wait to see more of it. Micelli also does an incredible job of pacing the action and building the tension and then unleashing the full fury of Sang.

Shari Chankhamma does an equally impressive job on colors. The muted colors work perfectly with this issue and series. The light brown and yellow backgrounds set the tone superbly well and it also makes the red of Sang’s hoodie and the blood jump off the pages.


I was surprised at how much I liked The Ballad of Sang #1. The only reason I read it was it had Ed Brisson’s name on it and I have been digging his Iron Fist series from Marvel. I am having trouble expressing why I liked this book so much. The story was not anything new or crazy and the art was good but nothing crazy exceptional. There is just something about The Ballad of Sang #1 that spoke to me. Maybe it is because I am a fan of that type of cinema, or that the style of the series just speaks to me. I don’t really know; all I know is I dig it, man, and that’s all that matters!

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