Usagi Yojimbo Book 19 TPB: Fathers and Sons (Dark Horse, vol. 3, #69 – 75; UY #128 – 134, Dark Horse, 2005 edition) – Stan Sakai

5 out of 5

This is, essentially, Travels With Jotaro pt. 2, as Usagi and his son / nephew continue to work their way back to Kitanoji, but the leading story that gives the collection its name – Fathers and Sons – is also incredibly fitting; each tale here can be said to reflect, in some way, upon family relationships, or some of the things that guide them – passion; honor. Every story here is a stunner; definitely a more emotional set, in general, but not without occasional moments of levity, as the bond between Usagi and Jotaro grows, and we witness further similarities between the two, though separated by years. Stan also continues to identify Jotaro as a full character, and hardly a kid tagalong: the things he accomplishes in these issues, and the way he makes his way through some of the lessons that are inevitably learned, are impressive, and impressively written. We end on the duo parting ways – Usagi back to his wandering path; Jotaro back to training – and it’s a veritably tear-jerking scene, while being, as always with Sakai, incredibly minimal but with immense impact, as he’s built up to the moment slowly and surely as we’ve gone along.

Sakai’s linework here is some of my favorite, nigh violent in its application, but buffered by his confident character work and pacing, and choice moments when he uses a steady, solid line. A showdown in the final two-parter, Hokashi, is insanely arted, and I think contains a couple of Usagi firsts – an “attack the camera”-type angle, and a samurai battle in which swords are sheathed until the single, precarious blow.