Space Usagi: White Star Rising (#1 – 3) – Stan Sakai

5 out of 5

Take the enticing space-transposing setup of the first Space Usagi mini, and now give it its rousing, blockbuster conclusion – that’s White Star Rising, and it is, wholly, 100% wonderful. Yes, it’s perhaps a bit more indulgent, with some shipping fan service, and further nods to the regular UY books – Gen is here, as a Han Solo-esque pirate – but that’s okay, that’s what ‘elseworlds’ style books are good for, and so Stan is to be forgiven for going all-in with one-liners and cliches, because it is damned entertaining.

Following up pretty much directly on the previous series, our bad guys are now headed up by Empress Amateh and her underling, Lord Niiro, the latter of whom is using Ryoko’s daughter to try to get at White Star Castle’s security codes. In the interim, Prince Kiyoshi has taken his position as Shirohoshi clan leader, and has become appreciably badass and confident along the way; we pick up with Usagi and Tomoe starting on their plans to sneak in to the Kajitori occupied-castle, newly recruited ‘Rhogen’ in tow.

Stan gives us some amazing Star Wars-inspired set pieces, but further expands on the sci-fi / samurai anthropomorph template with some new gadgets, funky space suits, and new characters – like quirky scientist Takenoko. Laugh-out-loud odd couple interplay, awesome action, and some fun soap opera dramatics ensue.

Stan’s art has evolved, of course: his Usagi is more lithe and lean, and his detailing is more fluid. It’s a wonderful looking book, again taking advantage of the setting and genre to step outside of the usual Usagi framework and give us some big ol’, jam-packed panels.