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Thursday, February 09, 2006

My Collection - USAGI YOJIMBO [1987 Series]

Usagi Yojimbo [1987 series]
37 issues [1987 - 1993]
1 - 11, 13 - 38

The first version of Stan Sakai's still on-going series, later published by Mirage and now by Dark Horse. Usagi had of course appeared in several issues of the anthology books ALBEDO and CRITTERS before the first issue, as well as a one-shot special reprinting his earliest stories the previous year.

I started reading the book sometime in 1990, I think after reading about it in one of the AMAZING HEROES preview issues. After a few months of getting the new issues I was also looking for all the back issues, although quite a few of them proved hard to find. I did eventually pick up the tradepaperbacks for those issues, so I was less interested in buying them, but still kept an eye out for them. I found most of what I still needed in the last year, except that elusive #12.

Pretty extraordinary series, as Sakai quickly got into the pattern of alternating long epic stories with a patch of shorter bits, mixing lots of drama with humour and a wide selection of Japanese mythology and history. And while he still does great art to this day, I think the peak of his work is probably around the middle of this series, from "Dragon Bellow" through "Circles".

In addition to the Usagi stories, the series also ran back-up stories of the same style as CRITTERS in most issues. The best are probably Sergio Aragones doing Catnippon in #11 (I still hope we get the UY/Catnippon crossover some day), the Evanier/Shaw! Digger Duckbill in #13 and Sakai himself drawing Tom Stazer's Lionheart in #23.

Some noteworthy issues:

#13-#18 - "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy", the first really epic UY story, and maybe still the best, especially the ending.

#20 - "A Kite Story", a good funny single issue story using some Japanese culture and history.

#38 - "The Last Ino Story", a touching story that also has a lot of Usagi/Gen interaction, which is always a highlight.

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