In Review: Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #6

Revelations and reactions result in a discovery that could tear the country apart.

The cover: Stan Sakai and Tom Luth have captured Usagi before a deadly fight begins. The title character crouches to spring upon the quartet of unsavory men below him who obviously are seeking the ronin. Usagi has drawn a blade since those looking for him have their weapons out. I like how quiet this illustration is but contains so much tension. The thugs look fantastic with the man in the foreground sporting a mean scar across the left side of his face that’s taken his eye. The man behind him sports some serious teeth and has his ears up high for every sound that reveal their prey. Great colors on this also with the title character in muted tones to reaffirm to the reader that he’s trying to remain hidden. Sakai and Luth are always a winning pair. Overall grade: A+

The story: The penultimate chapter of this story written by Stan Sakai starts with Inspector Ishida and Usagi realizing that Oda’s page that he’s thrown at them is from the Christian Bible translated into their language. Having such a book would result in death. Just as Ishida offers police protection to Oda for having the book, theif Nezumi pushes Hama into the open; he’s been spying on all. This scares Oda, who runs off. Usagi is upset at Hama for finding them, but the reason for this man’s need to find Oda is justifiable. With their lead gone, Usagi and Ishida need to plan, so they go to the best food in town. Unfortunately their entrance to the establishment is not unnoticed. The vile character who spies them immediately reports to those that have hired him and a promise and a threat are made on Page 13. An individual provides a clue to the inspector and the ronin as to where to go next and Sakai returns to a character seen previously in this series who is in a hurry to get somewhere. Information is given to the protagonists and the book ends in the best/worst possible cliffhanger. This issue is very engaging for what’s revealed and had me turning the pages quickly. The characters have me concerned for their fates, with Inspector Ishida having me very worried. Sakai has shown much of his family in this series and has had him in several Usagi tales over the past few years. The character really seems to be in a precarious situation and I’m worried this saga might lead to his death. Sakai doesn’t randomly kill characters; if someone dies it is for a reason, and I’m really concerned. I’m still grieving over the loss of Spot. This was a fantastic story that has me counting down the days until the final installment. Overall grade: A+

The art: My concern for Inspector Ishida moved to artist Stan Sakai after looking at the all the cross hatching in this book. I’m surprised Sakai didn’t injure his wrist just in the opening pages. The setting is composed of several pillars that have extensive cross hatching. It’s a slick technique to create a dark setting, but still allow the characters to really pop out on the pages. I especially love how Nezumi stands out wearing all black — the character simply looks sensational in this locale. I love the absence of a character between panels two and three on the second page. The reaction from the characters on Page 3 are outstanding, with Oda’s visage at the top of the page wonderful. I’m always delighted to see the business owners on Page 8 because they make me smile. The contrasting characters in the middle pair of panels on Page 10 is very clever, with Sakai going from honorable to despicable quickly. This individual’s journey at the top of 11 is fantastic way to visual show how low this character will go: nearly colliding with a mother holding a toddler and disregarding the law in another panel. Very smart. The visual reaction by the men in the fourth panel on 12 is a terrific way to show how a character may have just crossed a line and might foreshadow where this person will end up by the tale’s conclusion. The character that joined Usagi and Ishida with their meal is fantastic: an individual dressed this way, let alone in the daylight, would be enough to gather attention, but the way everyone treats this person so matter-of-factly makes me smile. The transition between the three panels on 16 is perfection in how movement can be shown in comics. The breakdown of the character on 21 is great, with loss obvious on his face. I was really taken aback by the strong emotions in the second panel on 23 because it’s so rare for either character to look like this. The final page is a terrific entrance and cliffhanger with the final panel free of dialogue but packed with surprise. This is a great looking book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Stan Sakai is also the book’s letterer, creating the issue’s title, dialogue and scene setting (the same font), yells, sounds, and punctuation marks for reactions. The title of this issue appears at the top of the first page in dramatic lines, beginning the tale in slashes that give the book a good punch. The dialogue is very easy to read, with words that have stress upon them given a thicker line and tilted slightly. The sounds are big and consist primarily of doors slamming. I have a feeling next issue the sounds of battle will resound. Note should also be taken of punctuation marks used for characters’ reactions with an exclamation point on 4 and another joined by a question mark on 16. They summarize the characters better than dialogue could. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Revelations and reactions result in a discovery that could tear the country apart. Fantastic story and art that make this another classic tale of Usagi Yojimbo. Stan Sakai’s comics should be mandatory reading for everyone of any age. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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