‘TMNT Usagi Yojimbo:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Sometimes, you need a little help from your friends.

If you’ve read my reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that I love Stan Sakai and his good myths and well-thought-out crossovers.  Well, this latest one shot from the sensei checks all of my boxes and makes me quite happy.  Sakai once again brings the Turtles to his feudal Japanese playground and envelops them into one of my favorite Japanese myths: the great catfish Namazu who is the cause of earthquakes on the islands.  As is typical of Sakai's work, the blending of true cultural education with entertainment is lovely to behold, and the storytelling is out of sight.

Stan Sakai is never one to let a fun storytelling trope get away without a touch of tongue-in-cheekiness, and he lets the Turtles have a little scuffle with Usagi even though they've partnered before, just for some gloriously illustrated combat.  The fun really kicks in when Jei appears, and the finale is incredibly fun.  Sakai's storytelling has always had a looseness to it that allows for stories like this one to pop up without seeming to interfere with the overarching themes or long-plotted tales for his long-eared protagonist.  I think the secret of this is the truth that he instills in every part. It's incredibly accessible without older or more advanced readers feeling as though they're being spoken down to.  If you're old enough to remember the passing of Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street, the same naked truth that made that episode so beautiful is the standard for Mr. Sakai's work.  It comes from a place of honesty and humor that makes it so good.

As for the artwork, the juxtaposition of the almost cutesy character designs and the deadly action has always been his signature.  Watching a character who'd not look out of place getting belly rubs on a couch have their soul ripped out is chilling and yet not in a way that makes you go gibbering into the night.  The world we are privy to is cruel, but goodness stands for something and the honor of the times has its own strength.  I love being able to see Leo and Usagi take on Jei. It's a fight that is incredibly interesting to watch.  There's some permanent damage done to Kakera-Sensei, and I'll be intrigued to see if it lasts the next time we see him.

Fans of either character who've not really interacted with the other ought to check this out, and if you happen to love both, then you should definitely get this issue.  You won't be sorry.

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