Friday, November 20, 2015

Review - Usagi Yojimbo #150 (@DarkHorseComics)

"Ah, your master taught you well, Usagi-san!"

Usagi Yojimbo is one of the most renowned ronin in all of comics. He's been around for quite a while and now Dark Horse is celebrating that legacy with Usagi Yojimbo #150. The issue is written and illustrated by Stan Sakai.

Usagi meets a European swordsman for the first time, a traveler who makes his mark by defeating Lord Odo’s best samurai! But when the stranger demands to witness a ritualized-suicide ceremony and chooses Tomoe’s old tea master as the victim, the rabbit ronin is caught between honorable tradition and compassion!

Clashing cultures always lead to characters who misunderstand one another and Sakai's experience with the Usagi Yojimbo character exemplifies this dynamic. His portrayal of Usagi maintains the familiar characteristics evident in a ronin and Usagi certainly exemplifies those characteristics. And the plot of the issue really gives Usagi's character a workout so to speak, pitting the more traditionally greedy motives of the west with the more humble motives of the east. It's an interesting plot device Sakai uses, but he uses it fantastically and to great effect. The reader really gets the sense of the gravity of the situation that Usagi is faced with in the issue.

The black and white approach for Usagi Yojimbo #150 continues to work in its favor. Sakai leans on it to emphasize a simplicity in both the character's appearance and his personality. The simple elegance of the samurai culture is maintained through the use of the simple panel structure and character designs. Usagi maintains the familiar appearance and mannerisms, all of which effectively personify a rabbit samurai. Sakai excellently handles his interactions with the other characters, placing them in situations that range from simple tea ceremonies to duels with high stakes on the line.

Usagi Yojimbo #150 is a great milestone for the character and the series. Usagi maintains his sense of honor in the face of even the most adverse circumstances and perseveres with his honor intact. Sakai's intimate understanding of the character works extraordinarily well for the pacing and presentation of the story. His artwork is simple yet elegant. Usagi Yojimbo #150 is a great way to celebrate the character's enduring reputation as a stoic yet combat-capable character in comics.

Usagi Yojimbo #150 is in stores now.


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