Usagi Yojimbo #165
Stan Sakai (Artist and Writer)
Dark Horse Comics
December 27, 2017
Usagi Yojimbo #165 is the last of a 3-part story arc set in a small village plagued by a criminal underground and an altruistic thief who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, Robin Hood-style. This wins him the love and admiration of the villagers, but also puts him in the sights of the local lawmen and sets him up as a convenient scapegoat for the local gang. Stan Sakai, true to form, weaves a tale that’s interesting, full of action and sprinkled with wry humor.
Parts 1 and 2 of the story arc follow Usagi and the local lawman, Inspector Ishida, as they try to solve the murders of two prominent business owners. In the mix is Nezumi, a thief who steals from the rich and gives half of the spoils to the villagers as a bribe to thwart the local law enforcement. It works well for him until Nezumi witnesses the murder of a local merchant and is framed by the Black Goblin Gang. Nezumi shares a silver bar with Usagi and Ishida that he stole from another prominent businessman, Hatamoto Asano, to help prove his innocence and implicate Asano as a criminal. At the end of part 2, Asano is assassinated during a fight with the Black Goblin Gang, presumably to silence him and protect the mysterious Master who is the true leader of the gang.
Part 3 continues at the scene of Asano’s assassination with Usagi and Ishida trying to sort out what happened. In the meantime, the boss of the Black Goblin Gang is challenged by his lieutenant who usurps his authority with the blessing of the Master. Eventually, with Nezumi’s help, they track down Asano’s silver ingot hiding place and the secret meeting place of the mysterious Master, an abandoned temple. There they find the leaders of the Black Goblin Gang and the hidden silver ingots, but the Master escapes before they can capture him or reveal his identity.
“Mouse Trap” is an apt name for a comic book that weaves a complex tale of intrigue and pursuit. Several of the characters alternate between the role of the mouse and the trapper leaving the reader to decide who becomes which. Usagi himself sets a trap for a snitch while looking for more information about the elusive Nezumi and the corrupt Asano. He is then trapped himself by the snitch and beaten by the Black Goblin Gang. Throughout the story, Ishida half-heartedly tries to trap Nezumi, who in turn traps the snitch.
Usagi Yojimbo #165 uses a fun, classic formula that will reward both longtime fans and anyone looking to jump into the series with a self-contained story. Old school fans will appreciate the classic Stan Sakai art, complete with cartoony death skull speech bubbles and skillful lettering along with his ability to make Usagi look fierce and formidable in one panel while benevolent and humored in the next. New fans can enjoy the wide variety of Sakai’s character designs from the mellow and thoughtful Inspector Ishida to the expressiveness and over-the-top antics of the snitch. The adventures of the rabbit ronin do not disappoint.