One of the things I’ve always loved about Stan Sakai (and to be fair, there are many things to love) is that Sakai’s always been able to squeeze any genre or story idea that he’s wanted into its confines. Sure, it’s a samurai warrior epic, but there’s a remarkable amount of diversity here. We’ve had an undying evil warrior, mystical swords lost beneath the ocean, romance, political intrigue, assassins for hire, even a monster that looked an awful lot like Godzilla. And now? Usagi’s discovering the joy of an army of zombies.
What’s great is that it never feels out of place the way that, say, zombies showing up in the second reel of “The Seven Samurai” would, perhaps because Sakai is always able to sell his ideas. So if the plot involves Usagi and Kitsune both scrambling for an evil netsuke that can resurrect the dead, we3ll, Sakai just treats it with respect and sincerity and everything else falls into place. It’s sort of like how Sakai draws most of his characters as animals. Why? Why not! I think once you’ve read more than an issue, even new readers won’t bat an eye at Sakai’s particular choices.
As for the story itself, I’m always impressed at how Sakai can take the final issue of a three-part story and not only make it satisfying to people that have read the earlier installments, but still accessible to new readers. It never feels like it’s drowning in exposition even as what’s gone before is made clear, and doing so never slows the story down at all. It’s not an easy feat, but Sakai hits it out of the park amidst some great action sequences. Because trust me, when the zombies rise up, there’s going to be a battle royale. From slicing up monsters to life-or-death chase scenes, “Usagi Yojimbo” never lets up the intensity and it’s hard to not love any and every part of it.
Honestly, “Usagi Yojimbo” is almost hard to review at times because it’s near-perfect. Beautiful art, fun stories that capture everything under the sun, what more could you ask for? Well, maybe more wrap-around covers like this latest one. Clearly Sakai had a lot of fun drawing zombies in this story, and it certainly showed. Fun from start to finish, there’s a reason why “Usagi Yojimbo” is closing on its 25th anniversary. Check it out.