Usagi Yojimbo 73

Quick Rating: Great
Title: The Pride of the Samurai

Samurai! Rabbits!

Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai
Editor: Diana Schutz

Usagi Yojimbo is the story of a samurai wandering through an anthropomorphic medieval Japan. Usagi is a rabbit. For the past few issues, he has been traveling the countryside with his pre-pubescent son, Jotaro. The boy is unaware of the fact that Usagi is his father, instead considering him an uncle, a friend of his family. For some time, Usagi has been pondering whether or not to reveal the truth about Jotaro’s parentage to the lad.

This time, the story concerns the plight of another samurai released from service because peace has broken out. The old warrior is lost in a world that does not need his services. Unfortunately, his young son suffers at his side as the two of them live in a shanty under a village bridge. As surely as Othello’s path is laid by Desdemona’s lost handkerchief, any title referencing pridefulness will end in tragedy.

The art in every panel of Usagi Yojimbo does not cry out for attention and yet, I find myself studying the pictures as intently as anything offered by any other comic book artist. I love the way the action is reflected in the style chosen; the way the detail flows with the point-of-view. Visual art is presentation, which we sometimes forget.

With this issue, Usagi Yojimbo celebrates its twentieth year of publication, having passed through a few publishers, but always remaining true to its basic storyline. Bone and Cerebus are about to come to an end, leaving few long-term independents with this kind of history. The world could live without Marvel or DC. The world will continue without regular output from Jeff Smith and Dave Sim. In fact, the world would continue without Usagi Yojimbo or Akiko. Yet, the world needs all the art it can get and never doubt that comics are an art form. And never forget that art is created by artists, not corporations. Usagi Yojimbois a remarkable accomplishment, worthy of innumerable accolades. Hopefully, you will deem it worthy of the most important honor you can offer, a good word to your comic shop owner and a purchase. The series begins a set of single-issue stories here, the perfect time to discover a new world.

February, 2004

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