The story opens with Katana engaged in a battle with an opponent that is extremely sexist aand chauvinistic. The story then backtracks and sort of rewinds to a few days prior when Katana had only first arrived in San Francisco. She opts to move into Japantown. One of the cool details we see here is the fact that Japantown is actually illustrated to look like Japantown. If you have ever seen that part of San Francisco you will definitely recognize that the art actually reflects some of the old buildings in the area, which is kind of nice. It's always great to see an artist use real references.
The story progresses and gets more interesting. If you know anything about Katana then you know that the sword she carries contains the essence of her late husband, who she technically always takes with her wherever she goes. The backstory is nice, and I really think the art is what brings out the story in this issue, to be honest.
There is a great scene where she is dressing and placing on her costume and this is a fantastic series of panels. I love the way the artist breaks down the scene step by step, but the internal dialogue here is also really good. It feels almost as though Katana is meditating in this scene, thinking about those who mocked her but also considering the fact that her husband "always has her back." It's well written and really beautifully illustrated.
I hate to sum up the first issue of KATANA in one word but if I had to, it would probably be "trite." Many of the concepts, themes and events we see unfold in this issue feel a lot like things we've seen before. Almost cliche, in a way. The dialogue in the first few pages of the issue is a bit silly and obvious, I didn't personally feel it was very clever.
Although this issue had some great scenes (the break down of her getting dressed, as I mentioned above), there are also a few moments that made me just shake my head. In the heat of battle the dialogue gets a little bit ridiculous and doesn't really actually add anything to the story. Without the skill of the artist in this issue it would be pretty difficult to tell just exactly what is going on.
This is a good introduction to Katana, particularly if you are unfamiliar with her skills and power set and the background of her character. Alex Sanchez's pencils are what really brought this issue to life. He did a fantastic job depicting her character in an interesting way and I definitely appreciate all the photo references he used that made it really feel like the scene was set in Japantown.
There were some great moment in this issue where the dialogue and the narration was pretty strong, but there were other moments where it really fell flat. Nocenti had some difficulty explaining Katana's power set during a specific action scene towards the end of the issue, for example.
Overall, if you are interested in this character then by all means check out this book. Overall, though, it was sort of average: there are some good and bad moments, but the art is consistent which is a huge plus.