Usagi Yojimbo #82


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Usagi Yojimbo #82


  • Words: Stan Sakai
  • Art: Stan Sakai
  • Inks: Stan Sakai
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Vendetta's End
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Mar 30, 2005

Usagi encounters an old friend seeking to avenge his father. But this time, the two samurai meet as enemies.

Having saved a couple from bandits on the road, the noble ronin Miyamoto Usagi returns with them to their village. There, his wounds are tended to by a kindly and somber priest who has dedicated his life to helping others. As the two become friends, it is clear that there is more to the kind old man than there seems. Things are further complicated by the arrival of Koyama Matabei, a samurai seeking vengeance on the men who murdered his father. When the priest is blamed for the crime, Usagi must choose sides in the tragic conflict.

I’m a relatively new reader to Usagi Yojimbo, having only followed the title for about a year. Usagi purists might scoff to learn that it was the master-less rabbit’s guest stint on the old "Ninja Turtles" cartoon that first drew me to the character. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Stan Sakai had been crafting one of the best all-ages adventure books in the business for numerous years. With his vast knowledge of Japanese history and culture and his considerable skill for storytelling, Sakai draws the reader into Usagi’s world. With almost effortless style, he combines folklore, period drama, and action to create an always engaging tale. Sakai’s use of talking animals as his characters also adds a delightful fantasy element to the book.

"Vendetta’s End" was, I felt, one of the stronger single issue stories I’ve read in the series so far. Though I was unaware of Matabei’s previous history in the comic, I was moved by his determination and pain in his attempts to get justice for his father. His desire to place the killers’ heads on his father’s grave gave the character a slightly frightening edge. His single-mindedness made for great drama and instilled both empathy and uneasiness. The priest’s gentle personality and dubious past introduced an interesting moral dilemma for Usagi, who finds himself literally between the two men. I found the method by which Usagi discovered the priest’s secret to be a clever and telling moment. Overall, a fine issue in a consistently enjoyable series.

Artistically, Usagi is always strong. Like so many of comics’ one-man shows, the series is aided by the single vision of its writer/artist. Sakai’s art style is unique and surprisingly versatile—childlike and whimsical cartooning one moment, stark and powerful drama the next. It achieves a nice balance between the serious and comical moments of the stories. I was especially impressed this issue by the sudden shift in style during a flashback sequence as the art became looser, sketchier, and slightly dreamlike.

Usagi Yojimbo is a series unlike any other being published. Whether you enjoy tales of ancient samurai, anthropomorphic animals, or simply a good story by a single creator, this is a comic well worth reading.

-Eric Lindberg

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