Usagi Yojimbo Color Special: Green Persimmon (#4, UY #71) – Stan Sakai

5 out of 5

Some mysteries “cheat” by not giving you a chance to suss out anything with the provided information. When you cheat, but still make me completely satisfied by the outcome, that’s great sleight of hand – I know I’ve been fooled but I’m pleased anyway – and also great writing, keeping me enraptured and invested the whole while.

Do I come to Usagi Yojimbo for mysteries? Nope. But the fourth color special – Green Persimmon – provides one anyway, and goes the whole delightful, sleight of hand route, when Usagi rescues a dingy, ceramic, green persimmon from a messenger, then fends off many attackers on his way to deliver it to its intended recipient. No one – Usagi, the persimmon’s pursuers – seem to have any clue what the deal is with the object, but they want it anyway; when the secret is revealed at tale’s end, Stan has been shoving it in our face the whole while… though, at the same time, there’s no real way to have known exactly what was what without the explanation. But thanks to expert pacing and artistry, which manages an epic’s worth of showdowns and climactic battles within a single issue, that cheaty approach hardly matters: you’re on the edge of your comic-reading seat the whole while, both interested in what we recognize as a MacGuffin, and biting your nails during each tense-as-heck scuffle.

Better yet, despite being a special, the issue has tangential ties to an ongoing storyline in the main Usagi series, but is loosely-linked enough that you’re not negatively affected by not having read it, either. Another masterful juggling act by Sakai.