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Comic Review: Usagi Yojimbo – The Hidden #5

by Dan Gehen

Dark Horse Comics

(w/a) Stan Sakai

Picking up this latest issue of Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden, I find myself reminded how good comics staring anthropomorphic warriors can be. Whereas the last several issues from IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of comics have seen an uncharacteristic dip in quality, Usagi Yojimbo continues on its path of consistently great, well-crafted comics. It ultimately is a testament to the merits of a single-creator’s vision, especially when that creator is Stan Sakai.

Back in this miniseries’ first chapter, Sakai introduced readers to he concept of the titular “hidden” and their place in Japanese history. Despite their absence from a couple of the middle installments, their presence has been felt throughout. With Issue #5, Sakai once again reminds readers as to why the Kirishitans remained hidden. Multiple times, Usagi has to pass through a checkpoint designed to ferret out any that may be practicing this new religion in defiance of the Shogun. What makes this work is Sakai’s ability to inject this kind of history lesson into the story organically. It is not forced, and does not detract from the narrative. Rather, it is a world-building detail that few creators are able to execute as well as him.

Having taken the time to sit back and digest this issue… not much happens other than meetings and walking. There’s late night meetings, early morning meetings, commuting to and from the inspector’s office, people following people, and more meetings. Because of the sheer quantity of meetings that occur, the reader sees a great amount of exposition sewn into the fabric of the issue’s dialogue. And yet, the writing keeps the reader fully engaged. Sakai is aware that this issue’s purpose is to set up the final two issues, but rather than try to squeeze in an action set-piece, he focuses his efforts on making each word have significance.

Few issues with the goal of setting the stage for the future are as well executed as Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #5. As has been the case for the last 30 years, Stan Sakai continues to produce comics, no matter how large or small in scope, that are simply impressive. If there is one disservice done to readers, it is their own unwillingness to pick up this series.

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