Usagi Yojimbo: The Sword of Narukami (#127, UY #186) – Stan Sakai

4 out of 5

Usagi stumbles across a samurai – Inuyoshi – taking on a pack of brigands. In a nice sidestep to the way the rabbit normally steps in to assist, he just pauses to observe, until one of the brigands mistakes him for Inuyoshi’s partner and attacks.

Inu is a brutal swordsman, and Stan applies the violence here in a manner we haven’t seen for quite a while. This leads up to Usagi having to halt the samurai in the midst of an interrogation of one of the brigands, leading Inuyoshi to explain the quest he’s on, which swings our rabbit ronin onto his side for a full-on assist.

The way things play out has Sakai’s scripting charm to it, applying Usagi’s sense of logic and morality to guide Inuyoshi to a particular destination. I can’t recall if we see him again, but he makes a strong impression just from this single issue, and his flashbacked tale has an interestingly low-key nature to it that helps to flesh out the notion that Usagi certainly isn’t the only ronin out there. The narration has some odd tonal hiccups, when Stan suddenly makes it jocular in the midst of the story’s soberness, but it’s an otherwise solid and immersive chunk of storytelling.