Usagi Yojimbo #144
Created, Written and Illustrated by Stan Sakai
Cover Colors by Tom Luth
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: February 29, 2012
Cover Price: $3.50
Last month, in my review of Usagi Yojimbo #143, I ended by saying that I predict that the next issue would have plenty of action. If I knew then what I know now I would have replaced ‘action’ with ‘violence.’ Usagi Yojimbo #144 is a violent, violent comic.
In the last issue, the ronin rabbit came into a new town and befriended Mitsui, an old, hardworking soy sauce brewer whose warehouse was being threatened by the local competition. Well, surprise, the thugs have returned in this issue. One of Mitusis’ staff is killed and Usagi sets out with an ineffectual sheriff to arrest the men responsible. They resist arrest. Swords are unsheathed.
It’s a unique violence that ensues. Writer and artist Stan Sakai moves the fighting at an exciting pace, yet all the swordplay, which has a few memorable stabs and slashes, is completely bloodless. With the characters being anthropomorphic animals this might start to sound like a Warner Bros cartoon if not for the fact that these people are straight up butchering each other. There are a few specific moments (page 20, bottom right panel in particular) that have that special effect of being twisted partly because it’s drawn in a cartoonish style with talking animals. In contrast to last issue with its quiet, understated passages about soy sauce and patience, this issue climaxes with Usagi Yojimbo doing a great, silly, action hero pun while standing over a corpse. Not exactly Bugs Bunnys’ shtick.
Ultimately what you have here is action that would be age appropriate for kids, and exciting for adults. I mentioned last month that issue #143 is a good place to jump on to the title. Between the two I think you’ll see a strong microcosm of what Usagi Yojimbo has to offer.