Usagi Yojimbo: The Secret of the Green Dragon (#29 – 31, UY #267 – 269) – Stan Sakai

3 out of 5

Much of The Secret of the Green Dragon has a been-there done-that tone to it, that makes me wonder if Stan is treading water a bit until his switch from IDW back to Dark Horse.

There are a couple of side aspects that are very rewarding: Yukichi’s personality is really starting to emerge, his naivety as a warrior becoming more clear, with Usagi settling into a half-step teacher / partner role with him that feels quite unique; and bringing Chizu into this mix is equally satisfying, as her station as a disgraced ninja – though still with followers – has toughened her further, making for a contentious relationship with Usagi that, again, feels different from some of the other hate / love friendships the rabbit ronin has, to the extent that he actively dislikes Chizu. Stemming from that, Stan has a couple of good plot swerves in ‘Green Dragon’ that play around with these personalities and affect the story in logical ways.

However, the meat of things, following up on Usagi and Yukichi delivering the Green Dragon, then getting mixed up with Kumori ninjas who are after it, feels, again, like very familiar territory, up through the discovery of what’s actually going on. Things never quite streamline as a good UY story does, and Stan even does a sort of clunky – and unnecessary – flashback at one point to fill some things in, which feels like an uncommon move for him. We never dip below a solid baseline, there’s just also not really any standout moments in the story.

I’m also a bit curious regarding the art and lettering as of late, as the inking / linework on both has a very digital look that’s… not wholly pleasant. Stan’s artistry remains fluid, if somewhat loose; again, I’m curious how / if the switch back to DH might change things, but we’ll see.