Created, Written and Illustrated By: Stan Sakai
This is the start of a very complex story that involves soulless killers, opportunistic bounty hunters, bandit leaders, weak back-boned rulers and a conniving council of eight readying for civil war. Hidden among all the personal interest goals of the previously mentioned characters, is Usagi YoJimbo, our Ronin rabbit hero. With each character having a few pages to show that they are putting their goals ahead of everyone else’s welfare, Usagi’s goal is to step aside when things are shaken up, literally, by an earthquake. Usagi wants to retrieve a treasure of fable to possibly bring back the power of a strong ruler, but when the earthquake ruins a village, he rushes to help refusing the reward for saving people as he doesn’t care for money he is more concerned with the people still in danger. Throughout this first chapter, it was all a reinforcement about how everyone has personal aspirations and wants that they put above everyone else, which is all but Usagi.
The art of Usagi is one that is constant and comforting as it hasn’t changed over the 30 years Stan Sakai has been creating these stories. There is a mixture of tones being set, from the violent demon like killer to the very bamboo filled forests. The scene though that really had me mesmerized was the tranquil reflections of the Ronin set at a tree along the crashing waves of the coast. Usagi is set in the year 1605 during feudal Japan, and because of the illustrations by Sakai, most of the panels could be made into woodblock art straight from that era, just like Hokusai.
With all of the familiar feeling from Stan that he always brings to this samurai story, it is very interesting to see how he will weave a unique and different tale than he has done over the past 30 years. This book I feel will be a very strong contrast of how people usually put their own benefit first, and by the end of the book I am hoping Usagi can sway more people to be liked him and think of others before themselves. Not to be overlooked is the story about the missing treasure of which the council wants to collect to help bring about civil war, and of course Usagi wanting to strengthen the countries leadership.
Just like a Quintin Tarantino movie, all of the separate story lines will converge eventually, and when that happens it will be exactly what I want from a samurai comic book.