Usagi Yojimbo: The Return of the Lord of Owls (#135, UY #194) – Stan Sakai

4 out of 5

Damn, I’d totally forgotten this dude existed.

Way back when, Usagi had a semi-showdown with a hooded dude calling himself the Lord of Owls who’d cut down those whose deaths he claimed were at time to occur. This is a hauntingly self-fulfilling prophecy: for no reason other than I deem your clock has run out, it’s time for you to die.

We start out in the middle of an over-the-top cinematic appearance of The Lord of Owls, which I appreciated as turning out to be a tale told to Usagi, who then relates to the tale-teller that he’d met the Lord. A few beats later, Usagi and his companion come across a band of samurai challenging – who else – The Lord of Owls. As per his shtick, the hooded warrior claims there will be more deaths today, and takes them out.

Stan could’ve gone a few different directions at this point, but the path he chooses further solidifies my love for his main character: Usagi confronts the Lord, and tells him he needs to be held accountable for these actions, and to wait for a magistrate. Not a challenge; no wariness; UY gives no effs if you’re some mythical slayer – if you commit grievous wrongs – and The Lords slaughterings could be considered wholly unmotivated – you should pay the price.

The conversation the two end up having, while they tussle, is brilliant. I suppose it could be brushed off as typical hoodoo, but because of the way folklore and belief works in the Usagi world, it carried a lot of weight. For this reason, the final panel zinger is the only weakness of the issue, not really necessary for a payoff and somewhat undermining the mystical tone.