15 years ago, comic creators Andy Diggle (The Losers) and Leinil Francis Yu (Secret Invasion), teamed up to create the politically-charged, futuristic sci-fi series Silent Dragon. With its themes as relevant as ever, we look back on what made the series so compelling then, and how it resonates with readers today.
What makes Silent Dragon so pertinent in 2020 is its central theme of political upheaval. The sci-fi cyberpunk series follows Renjiro, chief advisor to the notorious Yakuza warlord Hideaki, caught between his loyalty to the most powerful gang in Japan and the Japanese hard-line military junta doing everything in their power to stop him.
While Renjiro is avoiding a civil war with cunning tactics, the series explores its heavy-hitting themes with nuance and style. It asks the audience: who would you prefer to preside over you?
The rules are different in Silent Dragon’s Tokyo. Published through WildStorm, an imprint of DC Comics, Silent Dragon was not restricted to a known universe or reality, allowing Diggle and Yu the freedom to scale up the action, drama and art to a whole new level.
The most compelling aspect of this series has got to be its over-the-top style. Everything’s bigger in this universe, to the point where the characters aren’t the least bit surprised when they see cyborg Yakuza, holographic ghosts and samurai war droids. Yu’s artwork, inked by the late Gerry Alanguilan, seems to test how far it can go, and how crazy a character can look – not to mention how cool. Silent Dragon humours itself in cheesy and self-aware dialogue while flooding the page with impressive design. You’re left laughing and stunned at the same time.
The comically over-the-top tone of Silent Dragon works just as well now as it did in 2005, particularly when balanced with its darker and grittier elements. Silent Dragon achieves this via its plot (the story is focused on conspiracy and politics, after all), but retains its humour and downright nostalgic undertones throughout. Reading this comic, you might be reminded of TMNT or Ghost in the Shell.
When talking about his co-creator, Yu, to CBR, Diggle voiced our thoughts exactly. “It’s just incredible,” he said. “He’s created this beautiful blend of ancient/traditional Japanese design with ultra-futuristic technology – it looks fantastical, but everything still makes sense. It’s a world that works. If someone picks up a sword instead of a gun, there’s a reason.”
Often, you can see Yu and Diggle’s reasoning for certain elements while reading the series itself. If you read Diggle’s previous series, The Losers and Adam Strange, you’ll recognise his love of uncovering conspiracies. For Yu, it was all about experimentation.
Back in 2005, Diggle noted, “[Yu] has been yearning to draw sci-fi”, further highlighted in 2012 when journalist Chris Arrant learned about the artist’s “varied attempts to explore different mediums – branching out from his pens and pencils and into painting, digital modelling, and even digital speed-painting.”
Our only complaint? We want more! Diggle did consider writing a sequel series back when the comics were first coming out, but there hasn’t been any news since. Unfortunately, the story remains all on its own for now.