'Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow' #2 Makes Space for its Scariest Villain
We review the latest 'Usagi Yojimbo' issue and find a comic perfect for the spooky Fall season.
After last issue's shocking cliffhanger, Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow #2 resists jumping immediately to the moment readers are probably craving. Stan Sakai will get to it, we do find out what happens to Miyamoto and Yukichi before the final page of this issue turns, but for the first half of this chapter, we're hanging out with Jei and Keiko. Through some aggressive negotiations, the Emissary of the Gods recruited a cadre of bandits, and they still need some education if Jei is to will them against his rabbit ronin nemesis.
Since Jei and Keiko's return to the series in Crossroads, they've hung in the background, teasing us that an inevitable clash with Miyamoto is imminent. Ice and Snow #1 put them on a collision course, and it's nice, almost comforting, to spend some significant time with these complicated antagonists in this month's book. We know Jei means trouble for Miyamoto, but watching him utterly dominate his bandit recruits is more than pleasurable; it's wickedly scrumptious.
You can also tell Sakai is having a great time with them. Look at the various expressions waving across the ruffians' faces. The tremble of fear on most of them, the weak courage that a few wear in their gaze. Sakai's acting remains second to none, a few choice lines communicating the unease that mere mortals experience when in Jei's presence. Some sad sack makes a move, and it doesn't go well for him. Initiate chuckle.
The issue's back half is mostly the action we anticipated after Ice and Snow's premiere. As always, Sakai handles it with speed and efficiency. I blinked, and the comic was over, which invited me to give it another go straight away. It's always on these second passes that I linger on the movement and marvel at the wit with which Sakai dolls out a battle. There's so much happening between the panels, and what you see sells the impact and the emotion.
Like the last chapter, Usagi Yojimbo Ice and Snow 2 leaves readers itching for the next comic. I'm eager for Miyamoto and Jei to cross weapons, and it feels like such conflict could occur very soon, but Stan Sakai could delight in further delaying the battle. Once it happens, it's happened. We've seen it before, and it's taken some narrative wizardry to resurrect and sustain their rivalry. Is there a new phase they could enter? How about a common enemy?
Ice and Snow is shaping into a significant arc within Usagi Yojimbo. We wanted something big for the book's return to Dark Horse Comics, and we're getting it. That's frickin' exciting. And that's rather amazing, considering we're nearly three hundred issues into the series. Every long-running comic dips here and there, but Usagi Yojimbo feels as vibrant and necessary as ever. Stan Sakai is a master storyteller, and every comics fan should be paying attention.
Quickie review: Usagi Yojimbo Ice and Snow 2 continues to ratchet the tension. Stan Sakai paves the way for arch-enemies Miyamoto and Jei to slam into battle while never skimping on character and comedy beats. Ice and Snow could achieve top-tier status within the series, revealing a cartoonist in championship form. Yes, Usagi Yojimbo should be in everyone's pullbox.
Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow #2
Writer: Stan Sakai
Artist: Stan Sakai
Letterer: Stan Sakai
Colorist: HiFi Colour Design
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Dogu Publishing
Cover Price: $4.99
On Sale: 11/1
Plot Synopsis: Usagi and his cousin Yukichi must face their honorable host--a mysterious woman, pale as fresh snow--when she reveals herself to be a monster! Meanwhile, Jei and Keiko now have a group of bandits at their disposal. Usagi Yojimbo returns to Dark Horse comics with this new series!