Usagi Yojimbo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a few things in common. They are both anthropomorphic animals who partake in forms of Japanese martial arts and are generally viewed as the golden standard when it comes to independent publishing in comics. But from a storytelling standpoint, they could not be more different. And what better way to examine those differences that through this new collection from Dark Horse featuring all of their meetings throughout the years.
As described in TMNT co-creator Peter Laird’s introduction, Usagi Yojimbo is a traditional Japanese samurai tale that just happens to feature animals instead of people whilst TMNT are mutated anthropomorphic animals that have been dropped into a modern world with regular people. Basically a loving tribute versus an insane parody! As you’d expect, this makes for some great personality clashes with the serious Usagi having to content with the more larger than life Turtles. The creators of their respective series quickly realised this and – having a mutual admiration for each other’s work – set about producing several crossover pieces over the years. Usagi has appeared in several Ninja Turtles toylines and all three animated series. But the comic crossovers were definitely the best thing to come out of this arrangement.
With the exception of one story written and drawn by Peter Laird (a great little story that pays tribute to the meeting of Robin Hood and Little John whilst, playing off Usagi against his closest Turtle counterpart and eventual friend – Leonardo), these are all written and drawn by Usagi Yojimbo writer and artist Stan Sakai. As you’d expect, the authentic feel of feudal Japan and samurai action is very much present, but Sakai perfectly integrates the Ninja Turtles into Usagi’s world. Depicted in a style faithful to that of Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, the Turtles look like they have stepped right out of the original Mirage comics in both appearance and personality. What’s also interesting is seeing how Sakai’s style evolved from story to story with the first chapter originally printed in 1987 and the last in 2017. Whilst his art has always been strong, the most recent chapter is definitely the highlight with Usagi meeting the modern incarnation of the Turtles in a deluxe sized story basically celebrating the best of both worlds. To top it off, you’re also treated to a ton of bonus artwork from Sakai’s studio and various cover images by Sakai, Eastman and many others.
This is a must have for any Usagi Yojimbo and TMNT completists. Plus, anyone who appreciates fantastic art and storytelling with talking animals should check out this perfect example of how fun comics can be.
Usagi Yojimbo/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Collection is published on 9 October 2018 from Dark Horse
9781506709505 – P/B – £14.99