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Review – Usagi Yojimbo #1 (IDW Publishing)

Usagi Yojimbo #1 (IDW Publishing) cover (detail) by Stan Sakai
Usagi Yojimbo #1
Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10
  • Writing - 8/10
    8/10
  • Art - 9/10
    9/10
  • Overall - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
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User Review
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Summary

Writer: Stan Sakai
Artist: Stan Sakai
Colorist: Tom Luth
Letterer: Stan Sakai
Maturity Rating: Everyone
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: June 19, 2019

Miyamoto Usagi comes to IDW Publishing in Usagi Yojimbo #1.

“Master of Puppets” Usagi Yojimbo #1

The adventures of Miyamoto Usagi come to their new home at IDW Publishing in Usagi Yojimbo #1. The Rabbit ronin continues his adventures in Edo period Japan. Join his whole cast and crew for all-new continuing adventures. Usagi Yojimbo #1 starts a new story arc as Usagi enjoys a puppet show in town. As good as the play is, something is not right about these puppets, and Usagi and his friends may be in for some serious trouble!

Writing

Usagi Yojimbo #1 (IDW Publishing) cover by Stan Sakai
Usagi Yojimbo #1 (IDW Publishing) cover by Stan Sakai

If you don’t know who Stan Sakai is, I did a pretty little writeup about him in my review for the TMNT Usagi Yojimbo one-shot back in 2017 that you can check out. Stan Sakai is an absolute legend in the comic book industry and it is exciting to have his work at IDW Publishing. I was pretty stoked to get to meet him at Heroes Con a few days ago

As for Usagi Yojimbo #1, it is a pretty solid and straightforward Usagi Yojimbo story. As with most of Stan Sakai’s work, it is deeply embedded in Japanese history and superbly well researched. A new puppet show comes to town that Usagi is enamored with. He is very enthralled by the skills of the puppeteers. But something is off about these puppets that could put him and his friends in grave danger.

This being the first issue of a new story arc, it is hard to judge. It starts off very fast and seems to keep that pace throughout the issue. Everything is set up for the story to get going after this issue. Like all the Usagi stories, this one has many callbacks to previous issues (which date back to 1984; good luck catching up). Not to worry; Sakai usually makes it pretty easy to jump in on any new Usagi Yojimbo story. You might not understand who these characters are or how they relate to Usagi completely, but you get the gist of it and can still enjoy the issue.

Art

Sakai has one of those immediately recognizable styles. It is a comic strip cartooning style that is all his own. It Is tight-lined, uniquely detailed, and every page and panel serves a purpose. His exaggerated facial expressions and delightful character designs always jump off the pages. Probably what makes Usagi Yojimbo #1 and most Usagi stories seem like faster reads is his use of larger panel layouts. Sakai does not use many smaller panel structures, so the larger panels can make it feel like a quick read.

What’s interesting about IDW publishing Usagi Yojimbo is that they will be in color. Now, this isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before. It is just that we are usually used to seeing Usagi Yojimbo in black and white, and it is a little different when we see it in color, at times. Tom Luth does a fantastic job with his coloring work. It has a nice tint to it where it is bright but not too bright to be distracting. It fits right in with Sakai’s art and works extremely well.

Conclusion

Usagi Yojimbo has been around for a long time and if you are a fan you will obviously enjoy IDW’s Usagi Yojimbo #1. It doesn’t break the mold but delivers the legendary Stan Sakai’s work to, maybe, some possible new readers. Usagi Yojimbo is also one series that I can say you might learn something from. Stan Sakai is very meticulous in his research about different plots and things happening in this time period in Japan. He gives us a delightful backup essay about what-all went into the plays and puppeteering that happen in this issue. It is great insight, and actually a pretty interesting little history lesson.

If you enjoy Usagi Yojimbo then you don’t need me to convince you to pick up this issue. If you have never tried out this series then Usagi Yojimbo #1 is as good as a jumping-on point as you can get for such a long-running series. Stan Sakai’s renowned work continues to shine and it is worth your time and money.


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About the author

Brent Jackson

Brent is happily married and an avid comic book consumer who loves nothing more than the smell of comics in the morning and diving through a long box of back issues. By day he is a nutritionist and has also been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over 10 years. He is probably not the coolest person you have ever met. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @brentjackson30

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