Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 3 – The Wanderer’s Road – Stan Sakai

This volume continues the high standards set forth in the previous volumes. It is a balance of old folk tales retold with Usagi as the protagonist and Usagi’s new adventures with his friends and foes.

There is more of Stan’s distinctive humour and the odd cameo by faces you may know from other comics. There doesn’t seem to be the engagement of previous volumes as we aren’t learning more about Usagi’s own tale. The art is still great and this volume shouldn’t disappoint with the reappearance of some old faces. Thumbs Up!

156/209.

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

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2 – Samurai – Stan Sakai

When you discover a new brilliant title there are two sad questions you must ask yourself. Will it continue to be this great and how long do I get until the end finally comes. The great news here that volume two is just as fantastic as the first and there are 27 more volumes ahead. That’s more than Preacher, Y: the Last Man, Powers and all the other extraordinary epics.

This is shaping up to be an incredible tale. Even though it is told with animals in the art the characterisation, plot and the emotion that infuses this piece is fantastic. This is comics at their finest with engaging storyline and captivating characters. You really want to know both what happens next and how did we get here. Stan Sakai satisfies both illuminating Usagi’s childhood and deepening his relationship with Gen the bounty hunter.

The art is incredible with crisp clean lines meticulously drawn. There is no hint of anything being rushed to meet a deadline and not a pen-stroke is out of place. This shows you just how much depth and texture you can get with two colours. It feels very appropriate to the setting and would not benefit from being in colour. Getting clear facial expressions is difficult enough on humans bet getting a bunny to emote is clearly a work of genius because Stan manages it.

From the first few pages that are entirely devoid of dialogue to the Kurosawa and Godzilla tributes this is a delight to enjoy from start to finish. A true Double Thumbs Up!

155/210.

Tomorrow: Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 3 – The Wanderer’s Road – Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 1- Ronin – Stan Sakai

A rabbit Samurai. That is quite a large hurdle for many to overcome. It took me a while to pluck up the courage and finally dive in but I am sure glad I did. Like Blacksad or Animal Farm the animals aren’t the focus of the story merely a conduit to convey solid ideas. By removing human dressing we aren’t distracted by superficial details and can deal with what is important.

These are traditional Samurai stories of honour, virtue, courage, and friendship retold in a modern way but illustrated with anthropomorphised animals instead of people. The names and places all sound genuine. The language is authentic, with explanations of the period terms, so readers who know nothing of medieval Japan will be able to both follow along with ease and learn something too. This isn’t a Ninja Turtles cartoon this is a grown up allegory. After just a few pages you have accepted that your hero looks like a rabbit walking upright and he talks just like a sixteenth century warrior.

The art is outstanding. It is black and white but the framing is pure cinema. The artist captures not only the rapid movement of a duelling samurai but a rabbit one too. There is real motion frozen in the figures and lots of simple but effective tricks to convey the dynamic flow of combat and danger.

This is a book of separate tales that appear self-contained. When read together it acts as a giant road movie following the troubled life of our fluffy protagonist. You quickly grow fond of both him and the other recurring characters as you all experience victory and tragedy together. Without question, Thumbs Up!

154/211.

Tomorrow: Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2 – Samurai – Stan Sakai