Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai
Release Date: May 6th, 2015
For the thirtieth anniversary of everyone’s favourite Rabbit Ronin, iconic creator Stan Sakai revisits the world of Usagi Yojimbo with Senso, a six-part “elseworld” tale that sees the battlefields of feudal Japan invaded by extra-terrestrial war machines.
Thirty years on, Sakai’s firm, confident grasp of his lead character goes without saying, and Senso contains some truly dazzling visual and emotional beats along the way. His trademark black and white artwork is both frantic and dynamic, with this collection becoming an indulgently rewarding experience should the reader take time to soak up all the impressive levels of detail on display.
The story itself is perhaps a little lighter than some of his earlier Usagi Yojimbo work, with a slightly less violent, slightly more fantastical approach that sees ray guns, steampunk-esque technology and giant robots making their appearance into what had previously been a fairly grounded (talking animals aside) world.
Perhaps not one for Yojimbo ‘purists’ then, but in spite of the lighter tone and undeniably crazy premise, Senso reads like a mission statement from a creator who wants nothing more than to tell a fun, accessible story. And, in that respect, this series has to be considered a monumental success.
That’s not to say that this is all ‘fluff’, by any means. The human (or rabbit) drama is very much present, with family disputes and tragic love stories interwoven with the alien invasion carnage. The final issue also serves as a perfect microcosm of what has made Sakai such an undisputed legend in the comic book industry for decades, featuring a heart-breaking conclusion that manages to convey the same emotional heft of some of his finest Yojimbo work.
It’s difficult to say whether this series will serve as a parting shot from a creator who has suffered a tremendous amount of personal hardship in recent years, but if it is, I can think of no finer way for his anthropomorphic samurai hero to go out. Dynamic, emotional and – most importantly – fun, this is essential reading for any Sakai fans out there.
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You can purchase Usagi Yojimbo: Senso HC from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website.