Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden Fortress (#121, UY #180) – Stan Sakai

4 out of 5

And after some Kitsune dealings, back to a-wanderin’ we go. Usagi stumbles across a nigh-wasteland of bodies – Stan intercutting flashbacks of the battle that took place – and discovers a lone survivor, apparently a bandit tracking a particular rogue. The bandit is a little testy, but Usagi, ever the honorable, tries to help him to a nearby town so his wounds can be tended to. Sakai employs one of my favorite story-telling effects here: having a character do something that seems notable, but normal enough that it can be considered as scene-building, only for it to come back around and prove to be of great importance to the story. I also love when Usagi’s honor-bound nature doesn’t get in the way of his wilyness as a tracker and fighter.

The Hidden Fortress has approximately zero conclusion, hence the docking of the star, but it’s an incredibly solid tale, with an impressive amount of plotting and several action peaks for its less-than-30-pages length, drafted with Sakai’s dense-but-minimal storytelling style.