Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 14 – Demon Mask – Stan Sakai

This volume is a real treat and shows off Stan Sakai’s talents as a storyteller to the full. If you had never read any of his previous works you could jump right into the world of the samurai with this volume. Such is the care he takes to make this strange culture accessible to the Western reader. All of these are standalone stories but the “Grasscutter” story arc begun in volume 12 inches ever onward.

The star of the collection is another mystery story. There is no Inspector Ishida however and this time Usagi, and you the reader, are firmly in charge of the detective work. It does feel very Agatha Christie and the clues are structured solidly enough for you to work out the killer before Usagi does. This is one of the most engaging Usagi stories ever told and you are hopelessly drawn in to the deduction.

All of the stories here are excellent and explore a varied collection of themes and all have a satisfying and most a thoughtful and clever conclusion. Even the single page humorous tale is self-contained and will certainly make you smile.

The art is great as always and it is the shorter stories that allow for more dramatic art. The last tale which is drawn in landscape format is an excellent example of this as it is a story featuring a horde of the truly weird supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore all faithfully rendered.

This could be Stan’s finest hour and certainly deserves a Double Thumbs Up!

167/198.

Tomorrow: Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 15 – Grasscutter II – Stan Sakai

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