Out of all the comic/manga titles I've collected over the years, 2 were the most consistent in quality: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura.

The latter of the two and the subject of this node originally hooked me for the art alone, as issues were difficult to come by in the local comic shops, and I never really got a good taste of the storyline. One of the most interesting characteristics of this title are Hiroaki Samura's incredibly detailed b&w drawings. The first few issues where characterised by one or two page death-scene illustrations, where the main character Manji would slice up bad dudes in a perfectly artistic and beautiful, while unrealistic fashion. In later issues Samura tones these illustrations down, virtually eliminating them altogether while adding considerably more subtlety to his illustrations, allowing definition and quality of line and shape to create the narrative.

Yet ironically, it is the development of the storyline that ultimately saves Blade and consequently ensures that I will continue to spend $3.95 every month. Originally the hook was fairly simple: to attone for his crimes of killing over 100 law officers and his sister's husband, he pledges to slay 1000 evil men in exchange for the release of death (he was made immortal by a Buddhist nun in order for him to have the time to realise the folly of his actions). What potentially could have turned into a cheap action or X-Men-ish manga, Hiroaki has managed to create a great storyline dealing with the complex issues of revenge, rape, murder, honor, love, repentence, power and adolescence.