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Comic Review: Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #4 (of 7)

by Dan Gehen

Dark Horse Comics

(W/A) Stan Sakai

Here’s the short of it: Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #4 is another outstanding issue of the long-running saga by series’ creator/writer/artist and overall comics legend Stan Sakai. Nothing surprising here. What is surprising is that we are currently four issues into a 7-issue arc – the longest for Usagi Yojimbo in quite some time – and Sakai has yet to falter as a storyteller. Yes, as an individual issue there are the usual middle chapter “problems” that can be pointed to, but as a part of a larger narrative the work continues to be masterful.

Picking up immediately where the preceding issue (Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #3) left off, Miyamoto Usagi and Inspector Ishida must handle an attempted ambush. The result sees Sakai expertly choreograph a multi-page action sequence involving the two protagonists and a seemingly endless amount of assailants. In reality, Usagi and Ishida only have to deal with five attackers, but it is a credit to Sakai’s ability that he makes their peril seem overwhelming and never-ending. And in the confusion of the battle, Oda is able to steal the mysterious box that our dynamic duo had just recently acquired, leaving their trail seemingly cold.

What has made The Hidden stand out are the multiple twists and turns the story takes that are organically woven into each issue. And while this installment certainly has its fair share, the true surprise comes when the series returns to its opening premise: the kirishitans. By all accounts, these individuals of an outlawed religion have something to do with the box, and that makes their involvement in the story intriguing. How Sakai manages to wrap up this and the other disparate threads that make up this larger mystery remains to be seen, but he has given readers no reason to doubt his ability to give this story a satisfying conclusion.

Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #4, like the issues before it, is a complete and entertaining comic experience that can truly be enjoyed by all comic readers, from wide-eyed children to jaded veterans. Though this issue may not be perfect, it is still head-and-shoulders above the majority of those pumped out every week by major comic publishers, including but not limited to the Big Two. That is because few comics, corporate or creator-owned, are shown the care and dedication from its creative team as this series receives from Stan Sakai.

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