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Comic Review: Usagi Yojimbo #159

Stan Sakai ‘s Usagi Yojimbo is one of the greatest comics ever. With no Turtles book from IDW this week, and Mirage Volume 4 still on hiatus, let’s take a look at the latest adventure for this beloved member of the extended TMNT family…

Comic Review: Usagi Yojimbo #159

(W/A/L) Stan Sakai

Don’t Let the issue number fool you, Usagi Yojimbo #159 is an easily accessible comic. As a matter of fact, nearly any issue of Usagi Yojimbo can be picked up without prior knowledge of what came before due to the series’ base format: Miyamoto Usagi wanders across a version feudal Japan and encounters trouble along the way. In issue #159, that trouble comes in the form of an orphaned young girl he happens upon in the forest.

This done-in-one issue titled “The Hatamoto’s Daughter” tells readers everything they need to know about Usagi and the world he inhabits. The plot itself is quite simple, but it is Sakai’s mastery of all aspects of storytelling that makes this a unique and fascinating comic. As he strolls through the forest on the way to his next stop, Usagi discovers the body of a man slain by swords, and nearby is a weeping girl whom he deduces to be the man’s daughter. Usagi brings her into town to be placed into the care of the local inspector, and trouble follows as the killers of the girl’s father track them down.

The combination of Sakai’s writing and artwork makes for a perfectly paced issue which makes great use of the 24 pages allotted to storytelling. The “prologue,” the discovery, the confrontations, and the resolution are all packed in, yet the issue feels neither slow nor rushed. Because of the main conflict established in the opening pages, there is an underlying tension throughout, making seemingly innocuous interactions suspenseful.

Of course, writing is only half of what makes a comic great. Thankfully, Sakai is as gifted an artist as he is a writer. Having honed his craft for over over 200 issues (including the title’s publication at Fantagraphics and Mirage), Sakai has perfected an aesthetic which can be described as “complex minimalism.” Though the character and set designs appear simple, they allow Sakai to mold them into any form which serves the story, resulting in expressive characters and intricately laid out scenes. Furthermore, the black and white format forces readers to more carefully examine the artwork, exposing them to expertly choreographed action sequences.

Miyamoto Usagi is one of the most popular characters to make their way into world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And while his appearances in the Turtles’ various iterations are memorable, they pale in comparison to his ongoing adventures. If you’re interested in checking out his series, Usagi Yojimbo #159 is a perfect place to start.

USAGI YOJIMBO #159 is available digitally and at your local comic shop.

Editor's Rating

Honorable 9.0

The Author

Dan Gehen

Dan Gehen

Dan Gehen is a lot of things, but one thing he's been for his entire life is a TMNT fan (this has been verified by watching embarrassing home videos of his formative years). Though the classic 1980s cartoon caused his 3-year-old version to drive his parents insane via the constant repetition of "cowabunga dude", his true appreciation for the heroes in a half-shell came from the 1990 feature film as well as the comics by Mirage Studios. Today, he continues to enjoy comics from a variety of publishers, including the current TMNT series from IDW Publishing.

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