Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition
Written & Illustrated by Stan Sakai
Published by Fantagraphics
If you’ve been reading my musings for a while now, you’ll know this: Usagi Yojimbo is my favorite comic book of all time. Ever since it was announced, I’ve been jonesing for Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimob: The Special Edition – a two-volume, slipcased hardcover collection of the first seven Usagi trade paperbacks. Nearly 1200 pages of Stan Sakai story-and-art goodness, with an extensive color art gallery (the first time I’ve seen most of those early covers in color), sketches and short-story odds-n’-ends. So my saintly wife gave me this striking tome for Christmas. Yes, I am a hell of a lucky guy.
Among the highlights of The Special Edition is the ease of witnessing Sakai’s growth as a writer, artist and storyteller. While the illustration in the earliest chapters is already solid, Sakai’s linework grows visibly more assured and looser, giving the pages a liveliness not seen in many comics. Similarly, the layouts evolve to capture the quiet elegance of the Japanese countryside, the gut-turned terror of Jei (comics’ best villain) or the kinetic ballet of a samurai duel in pitch-perfect fashion.