Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 26: Traitors of The Earth
Created Written and Illustrated by Stan Sakai
Introduction by Walter Simonson
Editor Diana Schutz
Assistant Editor: Brendan Wright
Design & Digital Production: Cary Grazzini
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: June 27, 2012
Cover Price: $16.99
Well, that’s it. Zombies have officially taken over. First that Walking Dead Stuff, then the Marvel Zombies. Before I knew it they were skulking about the bridge of the USS Enterprise and then that Blackest Night thing, but if they can make it all the way into the pages of Usagi Yojimbo then where else is there to go? Eightball?
Seriously, though, for better or for worse, in spite of the kick-ass cover, the living dead have not infected Stan Sakai‘s Talking-Animals/Feudal-Era-Japan, his samurai rabbit heroes’ morals do not get tested when he has to decide to hack off the head of a bitten loved one; in fact, it takes up a relatively small portion of this volume. As anyone who’s been following this book for years will tell you, anything goes here. Usagi Yojimbo Volume 26 has zombies, hidden fortresses, assassination plots, dudes getting stabbed to death, water spirits, former allys seeking vengece, and an evil wizard that reminded me of a Skeksie from the Dark Crystal. So, yeah, it’s not just ‘Usagi Fights The Zombies’ here. But, by the way, it is there. And it’s awesome.
There are also large battle scenes that look as though they’re straight out of Kurasawas’ Ran, clever page layouts that build real tension in well thought out and consistent set pieces, and a thoughtful introduction by Walter Simonson who lovingly likens Stan Sakai to Carl Barks. And I learned a bit more about Japanese history, so there’s still that smart kid appeal going on.
Reading up on this volume to research this piece one thing I heard other people say over and over again was that Sasuké the Demon Queller, a very popular recurring character, would be returning. What I didn’t see, that I think others don’t say enough about this book is this: don’t let that get in your way if you’re a new reader. Usagi Yojimbo takes place in a big, fun world, ripe with many many more places to explore. I’ve still got plenty more volumes to read before I get caught up and I don’t consider myself an officianado or anything. And yet I’ve never felt intimidated by that because each story, while acknowledging a large continuity, never allows what’s happened before to bog it down in what’s happening in the moment.