Usagi Yojimbo: Ransom (#22 – 24, UY #260 – 262) – Stan Sakai

3 out of 5

A slight, somewhat tonally uneven tale.

As much as I love Kitsune – and how Sakai has complemented her tales with Kiyoko – her involvement in a story almost always guarantees a certain template. Stan has definitely shaken that up several times, laying down severe stakes or adding a particular zig or zag, but Ransom mostly sticks to the norm: she shows up, she steals, Usagi helps out, she winks and vanishes. Some of the charm is absolutely in the repetition, and that holds true here – including the “don’t I recognize you?” moment with the Snitch character – but to extend that predictability over three issues seems somewhat indulgent, and you can feel Stan fluffing things out a bit, when what should be the escalation of Kiyoko’s kidnapping ends up just seeming like the distraction that it is.

I supposed the wrinkle here is the addition of Yukichi, but he doesn’t add too much yet, sort of just functioning like an Usagi junior, if slightly less used to Kitsune’s behaviors. We also get the samurai Aoki, working for the boss from whom Kitsune steals, but his struggles with morality are also lightweight Sakai: a barely-varying variant on a type we’ve seen before.

Thankfully, even when Stan is phoning it in, this stuff works – I’ll still laugh when Usagi catches Kitsune stealing his purse, and there’s an even greater 1-upped visual gag on that here – and the coloring partnership with Hi-Fi is developing wonderfully.