Crowdfunding Review: “Shi: Return of the Warrior” (Crusade Comics)

Now that Shi creator and Crusade Comics founder Billy Tucci has launched Shi: Haikyo on Indiegogo, now seemed to be the time to do a “Crowdfunding Review” for Shi: Return of the Warrior, the first book in the Shi revival trilogy.

For those of you not familiar with the crowdfunding review format, we grade a crowdfunding campaign on four distinct categories:

  • Book Content and Quality
  • Communication and Fulfillment
  • Packaging and Shipping
  • Stretch Goals and Bonuses

Shi: Return of the Warrior was funded via both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. I backed a physical tier on Indiegogo without any high-dollar bonuses or art prints. We previously reviewed Crusade Comics’ Zombie-Sama! campaign, which had a few ups and downs. So how did things shake out for Return of the Warrior?

A return to form?

Book Content and Quality

Bottom line up front. The main Return of the Warrior book was awesome. The product itself is a very high quality, with a perfect bound card stock cover that will look great whether placed on the bookshelf or framed on your wall.

The story told felt much bigger than the 48 pages that brought it to life. The book’s heroine Ana Ishikawa has left her vigilante days behind and settled into a peaceful life as a mother and curator at a botanical garden, but a villain from her past threatens to flip that world on its head.

Despite my not having much prior knowledge of Shi before receiving Return of the Warrior, I never once felt lost. There is a healthy blend of action, intrigue, and even some deftly executed moments of light humor mixed in. In addition to being the expected action-heavy romp, the story is just as much about family and heritage as it is about slicing and dicing bad guys. The supporting cast is well-characterized and have real impact on the story, and one of them will be dearly missed in the Haikyo sequel. (RIP)

The artwork is close to perfect. Miss Ishikawa has aged like a fine wine, as she is presented as a confident, beautiful, and deadly force to be reckoned with… erm, with whom to be reckoned? The action is visceral, and multiple panels could be plucked right out of the book and made into posters, cards, etc., all the while never breaking the storytelling pace.

It’s not entirely cherry blossoms and roses, though. There are a couple of pages that descended into talking heads, and there was a sequence early in the book with some really goofy drum sound effects laid over it. These are admittedly nitpick criticisms that I had to work to find.

The book ends with a cliffhanger, which is annoying for a crowdfunded book as the follow-up (Haikyo) isn’t likely to arrive in my mailbox soon. Still, I was genuinely riveted, and nearly everything about Return of the Warrior syncs together perfectly. Nearly everything.

Grade: A

Kick him in the face!

Communication and Fulfillment

Return of the Warrior was originally scheduled to ship in March 2020, but it didn’t arrive until the fall, so about six months late. Sure, there is some leeway given due to the impact COVID-19 had on shipping, but Tucci is a former Army man, so he knows that late is late, and Staff Sergeant Worrell doesn’t want to hear your excuses!

On a more positive note, however, the Tucci and co. looks to have learned lesson from the Zombie-Sama! campaign. Despite the delay, Tucci and the Crusade Comics crew were much, much better in communicating with the backers along the way. In our crowdfunding review of Zombie-Sama!, we were very critical of how communication was handled, and we gave out low marks as a result. It was very reassuring to see email updates on the Shi: Return of the Warrior campaign multiple times a month, with roughly 90 (yes, nine zero) updates from beginning to end, carrying all the way through to fulfillment.

A huge improvement in communication, but still late in delivering the book.

Grade: B

Are we truly defined by our past?

Packaging and Shipping

My copy of Return of the Warrior arrived packaged in a Gemini mailer, which we assert is the gold standard for shipping comics. Inside, the books and extras were reinforced in bags with one backing board, and all protected in bubble wrap. Everything from the book to the extras arrived in perfect condition, and the signatures were pristine. The Tuccis also included a tracking number when the book shipped, so I was able to track it along its journey to my mailbox.

After racking my brain, I can’t think of anything I would suggest to ensure that the books and extras shipped in better condition. Flawless.

Grade: A+

The Crusade Comics crew working behind the scenes to deliver books to backers

Stretch Goals and Bonuses

As I mentioned above, I backed a basic tier on Indiegogo featuring cover art by Mike Renzine. I also received a digital pdf of the book, which is nice. I always prefer a physical copy when possible, but it’s still great to have the digital version to snag some images for this review, if nothing else!

Between both the Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, Return of the Warrior unlocked several stretch goals and bonuses. These included 8 trading cards, an oversized bookmark, a “Tucci Trooper” patch, die-cut sticker, an art print, and a also a reprint of the very first Shi book, Way of the Warrior Anniversary, which features a Todd McFarlane-inspired line art cover and was printed on newsprint via the Alterna Comics printing partnership program.

All of the bonus pack-ins felt high-quality. I don’t usually have much appreciation for trading cards, but the Return of the Warrior set looks and feels great, has a shimmery finish, and are printed on thick stock. The print and bookmark are printed on similar material, and look equally great. I may very well frame the print. It’s beautiful.

The real standout, though, is the Way of the Warrior Anniversary bonus book. Having skipped out on Shi in the 90s, it was great to get a sense of where the character began and to see how Tucci’s work has progressed over time. It would have been a worthy purchase in its own right, and it whets my appetite for the Shi: Omnibus that Tucci is planning for March 2021.

Grade: A

Mike Renzine’s cover is so pretteh

Overall, the Shi: Return of the Warrior campaign was not only an improvement over the Zombie-Sama! campaign, but it also a fantastically-executed project in its own right. The book is great, there are tons of quality extras, and Tucci is setting the standard for shipping crowdfunded comics. I can absolutely recommend Shi: Return of the Warrior to anyone who is at all inclined to pick it up, and it was well worth the price of admission.

I am very excited to read the next installment. Let’s just hope that there are no more delays getting backers their books.

Overall Grade: A (not an average)

Thanks for reading! You can check out Billy Tucci’s Shi: Haikyo campaign on Indiegogo here, where you can also pick up a copy of Shi: Return of the Warrior as an add-on if you want to catch up.

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