Over the years, Stan Sakai has won or been nominated for most every award a comic creator can get, and he returns to one of his best-known characters in a very odd turn, adding something new to the characters we’ve grown to love over the course of this series. Our favorite Wascally Wabbit Wonin (I sometimes can’t even stop myself.) and his companions are now fifteen years older than last we saw them and finally about to wipe Hekiji’s forces from the map when something arrives that no one is prepared for.
A little while back, I saw a preview for one of the issues in this series that read something like “buried under the alien craft,” and I could only think . . . what in the oni-loving hell? Seeing the story laid out, however, makes a lot more senso. (Like the title!! I warned you.) Setting himself in a series of panels with Usagi, Sakai explains his vision of mixing ol’ long ears with War of the Worlds, where the martians had sent an advance party hundreds of years before H.G. Well’s put-upon protagonist sneezed in their soup. All of the arguments you probably have he brings up in a fun, self-deprecating way and gives us the perfect tone for what follows: a mix-up romp of his most lasting characters in a playground he makes himself. To be honest, I could read a whole series of Usagi and Stan books; it’s got all of the charm of “Daffy with the Illustrator” cartoons with Sakai’s rapier wit at the helm.
The tale grows quickly, and though there’s a lot going on, Mr. Sakai never rushes the moments, letting things play out to catch us up on Usagi and co., as well as engage us in this different kind of story. We see that things are still up in the air with many of these characters, and though they’ve settled into their roles, their hearts and passions are far from being so. Stan’s artwork is flawless and precisely what we expect from him. He takes his signature style to the martians and conveys the depth of emotion and drama as only he can.
If you’re long-time fans of Usagi Yojimbo, prepare to watch Sakai rip through his characters like Whedon getting canceled. I’m not saying that everyone dies, but man are there some beautifully crafted final stands. It’s the kind of story that he’s always excelled at, and it’s a painful, but heartening, joy to read it. Check it out when it hits your shop. Oh, and the final act is complete whackado, and I love every silly moment of it.
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