In Review: Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #5

A request is made, the villains cross a line, and a terrible discovery can be found within this spectacular issue.

The cover: This is a wonderfully deceptive cover from Stan Sakai and Tom Luth. Picking up from last issue, Usagi and Inspector Ishida are outside the inspector’s home, each with their weapons drawn. They look about, as though expecting to be ambushed. A lantern shines brightly above Ishida’s head, placed there by him earlier. There’s a lot of space in this illustration dedicated to the setting. In fact, when I first gave this frontpiece the once over I thought Sakai had erred. As I sit to write this review and I can take my time with this illustration I can see that I’ve misjudged the creator of this book, for he’s rightly shown much of the setting. Now that I see it, I get goosebumps looking at his cover in anticipation of what it means. The colors by Luth continue to be outstanding, with the lantern shinning brightly, which also is related to the surprise on this cover. And take a look at the realistic glow around the characters from the lantern. This is a great, smart cover. Overall grade: A+

The story: Stan Sakai’s story opens late at night. The city is asleep as the point of view moves to Ishida’s house, where the lantern with the message on it still shines. The inspector and Usagi are asleep at the table. That’s when a figure leaps down from a rooftop. This masked character scales a wall, runs across a roof, and lands in the inspector’s yard. Slowly Nezumi makes his way into the building until stopped by “It’s about time you got here!” The pair of protagonists were playing possum, waiting for the thief to appear. They have an interesting request to make of this character and this is one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever encountered in Usagi Yojimbo. I loved how Ishida and Nezumi were absolutely honest with each other. To have foes sitting at a table and sipping tea while being wholly honest was a riveting read. But this is only the start of this issue! Pages 9 and 10 have the villains make a decision that could have some major repercussions for the heroes. One character gets the jump on the title character and it results in the largest outburst I’ve ever seen in the history of this character. There’s also an appearance by Inspector Nii who continues to be one of the most incredibly likable supporting characters in all of comics. The book ends with a great reveal that justifies why everyone is looking for a particular man: the dialogue that ends the issue will make every reader gulp at the danger that’s shown. I can’t believe this will all wrap up in only two more issues! Overall grade: A+

The art: The first three pages of this book are silent, save the final panel of the trio. It’s a fantastic way for artist Stan Sakai to establish the setting, what the heroes are doing, and create some wonderful tension as masked Nezumi moves about. The thief’s reaction to the dialogue at the end of Page 3 is fantastic. The reactions from Nezumi to what is being said are impressive: the character is masked, so there’s not much face to be shown, but Sakai gives the character plenty of emotions for the reader to see the character means what’s said. It must also be pointed out that this scene is essentially three characters sitting at table while talking and sipping tea. One wouldn’t think that this would lend itself to interesting visuals, but every panel has an incredible amount of tension. The two pages of the villains are great, with this gang looking really rough around the edges and the smallest member being delightfully deviant in design and actions. Page 12 gave me the biggest belly laugh for what’s shown and not shown and making me remember my own children when they were young. The work done on the settings continues to be eye popping: buildings of every size, in every possible condition, are everywhere in this issue, with the final setting being appropriately sketchy; I actually got worried that Sakai might hurt his hands or eyes from all the cross-hatching. The variety of people that populate these settings are also amazing: I actually feel at times I’m doing the story a disservice as I pause over the design of each individual and the clothing of those who inhabit this world. There’s just so much detail in this book. This book is amazing to look upon. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Stan Sakai is also the book’s letterer creating the story’s title, someone’s name, dialogue, yells, sounds, laughter, and an incredible outburst. Sakai’s dialogue is easy to read and looks terrific. There are several sounds in this issue, with STOMP being my favorite as well as essential to the book’s plot. It’s the outburst on 12 that’s getting me to stand up and applaud, because it looks exactly as it would sound. It’s nothing short of brilliant. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A request is made, the villains cross a line, and a terrible discovery can be found within this spectacular issue. I love the characters and the mystery, and the visuals are sensational. Perfect in every possible way. Overall grade: A+

To purchase a print copy go to https://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Usagi-Yojimbo%3A-The-Hidden-5___573557

To purchase a digital copy go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/books/fae06289555e49d4b1ca5c582a4db085/usagi-yojimbo-the-hidden-5

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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