Usagi Yojimbo Book 20 TPB: Glimpses of Death (Dark Horse, vol. 3, #76 – 82; UY #135 – 141, Dark Horse, 2006 edition) – Stan Sakai

5 out of 5

A stunning collection of stories, ranging from those hitting on the incredible emotional solemnity of which Stan has proven capable to more humorous affairs, though almost all linked by the theme suggested by the collection’s title – actions taken when running away from, or toward, death, be it in a physical form or another. Throughout, we also have some plot check-ins – Inazuma, freshly housing Jei; Gen – but these feel very appreciably linear, leading from one beat to the next; and in addition, there’s some setup for future characters / plotlines, but again, the pacing with which these are doled out, and the attention they’re given, makes them all feel like part of one roundhouse of storytelling instead of scattered tales.

Stan is still working with a particularly forceful style of line I really like, though in the the last chapter (Vendetta’s End, another great wrinkle in the way Usagi / Stan approaches honor, starring father’s-killers hunter Koyama Matabei) he steadies this somewhat, perhaps to offset the scratchy-line style used during flashbacks. Whether or not that’s the case, or it’s another shift in linework, it looks fantastic, as does the rest of the volume, whether dealing out chuckles, drawing beasties, or battles.