Usagi Yojimbo #86


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Usagi Yojimbo #86


  • Words: Stan Sakai
  • Art: Stan Sakai
  • Inks: Stan Sakai
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains: Chapter Four
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Aug 31, 2005

Usagi and Tomoe are enslaved by the cruel lady warlord Noriko, who harbors many secrets concerning our heroes.

After being dispatched to investigate rumors of plague, Usagi and Tomoe Ame have discovered a slave camp being run by Tomoe’s spiteful cousin, Noriko. The heartless Noriko is convinced there is gold somewhere in the mountains and doesn’t care how many peasants have to die to find it for her. Soon our intrepid samurai heroes are added to the labor camp’s workforce and must seek a way to free themselves and the other victims. But Noriko has a number of distressing secrets about her shared past with Tomoe which complicate matters even further.

Usagi continues to be one of the best adventure books being published today. I am consistently amazed by how long Stan Sakai has kept this series and its characters going and the level of quality he has maintained during this time. Issue 86 is going to go down as a personal favorite however as the increased stakes, character drama, and surprising revelations made this a very engrossing read. Longtime fans are treated to answers regarding Tomoe and Noriko’s origins while new readers can enjoy the interpersonal crisis and emotion of the story. Noriko is shaping up to be quite the despicable villain but in this issue, we see that her motivations go much deeper than merely greed.

On the art, Sakai proves himself to be a masterful cartoonist as always. To be quite honest, I think I preferred his earlier style to the more loose and stylistic work in the current issues. I recently bought a copy of Usagi: Book One and found the art much more polished and detailed than the style he uses today. This is personal taste however and I know some fans favor the current work. Either way, Sakai’s skills as a storyteller are not in question. The linework is clean and precise, his characters’ non-human faces are consistently expressive, and he effectively balances action, humor, and drama with relative ease.

To dismiss this book as simply a funny animal comic or a reinterpretation of Japanese history is to do it a disservice. Sakai’s hybrid of various styles turns Usagi Yojimbo into something that is often a rarity in the pop culture landscape: a wholly original vision.

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