Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 4 – The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy – Stan Sakai

I was told before I read this that it was the best of the Usagi Yojimbo stories. They were right. After the last volume of fragmented parables this is a continuous, original epic. From the very start you get the feeling that this will be an incredible work. With each chapter the scale and tension builds as layer upon layer of drama and excitement is heaped ever higher.

All the major characters (including some you have forgotten) are here and you really don’t know who will survive. Even those new faces that come and go in this issue are all well rounded and have their own presence. The whole story is tinged with unpredictability but is so simple and well-crafted you are never lost or confused.

The art is incredible. The story zips along so fast that it is easy to skip over the pictures. Slow down and look at the artistry that is present. Many of the panels are mini works of art with such simple yet dramatic composition they tell a whole story by themselves. It is humbling to see what a few lines can do. The dialogue free fight scenes are also a bold and perfect statement.

Everything about this is faultless. The code of bushido and hundreds of years of Japanese history are expertly interwoven within this work. People make their decision to live or die based on their beliefs and happy endings are few, just as it should be. Double Thumbs Up!

157/208.

Tomorrow: Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 5 – Lone Goat and Kid – Stan Sakai

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