TMNT Usagi Yojimbo
The Warrior Rabbit
Let’s “hop” into a quick history lesson before we “jump” into TMNT Usagi Yojimbo (one shot) from IDW publishing. For those who don’t know Usagi Yojimbo was created by Stan Sakai way back in 1984. The stories of Usagi Yojimbo follow an anthropomorphic rabbit named Usagi who is a master swords man, most of his adventures take place in an “ancient” Japanese history time period. Sakai’s ownership over the character has allowed him to appear in basically whatever he would like to appear in along with his own comic series (currently published by Dark Horse comics). The character Usagi has appeared along side the TMNT brothers in their original comic book formats and in various cartoon incarnations throughout the years. There is a great backup interview with Stan Sakai about how he first got involved with the TMNT franchise in this issue. For more information about Stan Sakai and the Usagi Yojimbo series click here.
Now that we are caught up on a bit of history we can jump into the 2017 meet up of these characters. Now, the Usagi Yojimbo series stays on the same timeline. That means no new timelines, incarnations or different versions there is only one Usagi. This character has met up with various incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before (whether it be comic or animation form). This is the story of his first meeting with IDW’s TMNT incarnation. With this there is a little mix up between Usagi and the Turtles; Usagi thinking they are friends and the Turtles not knowing what is going on!
With his world being threatened by a giant catfish once trapped by a god, his rumblings bring certain doom to Usagi’s land if he cannot be stopped. There are some evil forces that would like for the land to be destroyed and his forces far out number Samurai Rabbit and Kakera Sensei (The Master Splinter of Usagi’s world). With the help of Kakera’s magic, they gather four turtles to bring forth their shelled friends for help but these are not the same Turtles that helped them so many years ago. Will these turtles be so accepting of Usagi’s plight or will they just battle each other?
Stan Sakai is a living comic book legend in our time. His cartooning and sequential story telling should be put up there with any of the other comic book legends. His brilliance lies in the simplicity of his work. The tight lines and “cartoony” style may at first deceive the eye, but with further inspection, you can see his mastery. Every character he draws is uniquely his own, with great facial expressions and body position, he can tell a whole story in a few panels. He really knows how to set the pace of the book by structuring the layouts from intense battles to introspective character moments. He really knocks it out of the park. This Issue is no different and it is great to see his interpretation of this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Tom Luth’s colors are just icing on the cake. He matches the style and tone perfectly and really gives the issue a great feel to it!
If you are not familiar with the Usagi Yojimbo series, Stan Sakai and his connection to TMNT then I can see where this issue might throw off newer readers (plus the $7.99 price tag), but for the mastery of Stan Sakai it is well worth it. You can also purchase a hardcover edition of this Issue with some great character designs and drawings from Sakai. It has been over 20 years since TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo have met in comic book format! Fans of both series or just comic book fans in general are not going to want to miss out on this epic journey!
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