Usagi Yojimbo: Return to Hell (#130 – 131, UY #189 – 190) – Stan Sakai

4 out of 5

I guess the town called Hell just makes Usagi act a little strange. That’s aright – we get an epic, two-part battle here, with some of Stan’s most vicious and exciting art to date.

That is, sincerely, the gist of these two books: Kato and Usagi make their way back to town, and slash through a ton of boss Higa’s thugs, with a fun anteing-up as the duo first go bloodless, then unleash their swords, then go at it without swords, and yes, this is incredibly badass. While the ending sort of feels forced, just so we can consign Kato to Hell and not have to have him as an ongoing character, because the preceding action is so amazing, it’s okay – I agree that there just really wasn’t room to do much character work. Stan also overuses the “is it worth losing your life for money?” ruse to get bands of thugs to give up, but again, these moments are well covered up by the glorious choreography and art that surrounds them.

I liked Kato’s beard, and I’m sad we (probably?) won’t be seeing him again, but this was a rousing pause in usual UY story-telling modes to just go all-out hack ‘n’ slash on us, and it was a great time.