The concept of Lone Wolf and Cub is, in a word, fascinating. A stoic Ronin wanders the countryside of ancient Japan, carting his small child in a vessel that more than meets the eye, with a banner to advertise: `son for hire, sword for hire.' Over mountains and through cities he travels, offering his unique services to those needy - and to those who can pay. The legend of Ogami Itto and his precocious son Daigoro spreads far and wide; he gives hope to the desperate, vengeance for the bereft, a chance of rogue justice in an unbalanced society. And more: LW&C walk the path of meifumado, the Buddhist hell of demons and damnation, to achieve a private vendetta: to lay rest to the tragedy that has set father and son upon the assassin's road - a dastardly deed only hinted at in this first volume.
Until Dark Horse decided to publish the entire series in 2000, Lone Wolf and Cub had existed beforehand as a manga-mythos of the Far-East - extremely popular in its Nippon homeland, where it begun serialization in 1970 and continued for many years, spawning six films and critical acclaim in its wake; but published sporadically and incomplete on western shores. Dark Horse's commitment to the series was an audacious one - the story spanned some 28 volumes, an expensive investment for publisher and readership alike - but the end result was, to me and other scholars of Eastern culture, invaluable. For LW&C not only entertains with its blend of samurai-noir and vicious sword-play, it educates on the finer points of Japanese culture, as it existed in the Tokugawa era, and displays vividly the struggle of existence, from lowly peasants to the most upright nobility.