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The Art of War is a 6-part Shinobi story, beginning in Issue 19 of Sonic the Comic.

Staff

Story

The Neo Zeed tower in Tokyo is an impenetrable one, immensely tall and protected by armed guards. Joe Musashi, heavily disguised, seeks a way in. Even if he stole an entry card, he would need the PIN to get in. Remembering the words of Sun Tzu that you should bring an enemy to battle on your terms, Musashi decides he must return to his old ways. Joe remembers his old sensei, who watched as he perfected archery. Musashi was troubled by an enemy's ability to use a gun to counter his martial art skills; his sensei reminds him that enemies won't follow the ways of bushido and must sneak up on an armed enemy. Musashi learned the hard way, discovering that his mentor was poisoned by the Neo Zeed. Now they've kidnapped Naoko and Joe must save her, somewhere in the tower. Unveiling a flying contraption, Joe leaps off a building and steers it top of the Zeed tower. There, he abseils down, searching for his love.

Entering through an open window, Musashi displays his knowledge of the enemy by hacking one of their computers to search for Naoko. His search goes well until the Neo Zeed security system alerts guards to his presence. Another flashback occurs, where Joe's sensei teaches to attack in the dark, blindfolded. As the old man leaps forward, Musashi's haragei kicks in, defending himself. He continues to teach him that some foes may misdirect that haragei, which is what has happened in the present day. Cursing himself for not thinking security would be tripped if an unauthorised person gained access to the terminal, he leaps out of the room, only to find himself facing an armed guard.

Swiftly, Musashi chops the end off the gun with his sword and knocks out the guard with his own weapon. After dragging the guard out of the way, he consults his haragei, which tells him Naoko is not around. Thinking she may be downstairs, he forces open the lift doors. A third flashback, Joe's sensei recounts the story of his sensei. A young man from a peasant family journeyed to a school to learn ken-do, but found his way barred by a samurai. Fortunately, a teacher learned of the boy's desire and took him on. Back in the present, Musashi is halfway down the lift cable when he is followed by Neo Zeed assassins. One of them slides down another rope past the Shinobi and cuts his cable, leaving Musashi with nowhere to go.

Realising they probably want him alive, Musashi goes on the offensive, cutting the cable from one of the guards (probably killing him) before jumping through a ventilation hatch, closely followed by shurikens. A flashback later, Joe's sensei explains to his students that his sensei did not abide by the laws of bushido. He would often perform a "chicken step", a move that involved him running away from opponents, then stopping suddenly, impaling enemies on his sword before they had time to react. In Musashi's world, he sneaks into an office just before ninja Kenjei comes in to patrol. Knocking him out, Musashi dons his uniform before joining up with the others. Before he has too long to worry that he has chosen to impersonate an incompetent ninja, Musashi is tricked into a trap.

Trapped in a room, a voice taunts Musashi before laying down a challenge; if he proves himself worthy in a battle simulation, he will be given the chance to see the Neo Zeed leaders. Musashi navigates flamethrowers, spike pits and flying shurikens with ease, but feels he can't fight forever. He remembers when his sensei taught him to use any trickery he can to deceive the enemy, something the old man demonstrates when feigning injury. Musashi does the same, feining death when caught in heavy nerve gas.

The assassins carry the "corpse" to see The Void and the Four Elements. Pleased with his henchmen's work, The Void orders Earth to bring in Naoko, the latter devastated that her lover is dead. Naoko rushes over to Joe, which is when he chooses to come out of his prana, fooling everyone. The Shinobi throws a small blade into a chandelier, sending his foes scattering. Joe and Naoko jump out of the window and Air is keen to follow, until The Void instructs her not to. Outside, Musashi's flying contraption opens and the couple fly off to safety. Wondering why Joe didn't fight them, he reminds her of his sensei's - her father's - words that you should only fight when you know you can win. With that, Musashi takes Naoko home.

Trivia

  • Musashi saves Naoko, a plot started in The Fear Pavilion.
  • The hero seems to murder an assassin in the lift shaft, despite it being against his methods.

Timeline

The previous Shinobi story is The Fear Pavilion. The next is Way Of The Warrior.

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