Usagi Yojimbo: Samurai and Other Stories Gallery Edition

Hailed as one of the true masterpieces of the comics medium, Usagi Yojimbo gets its first gallery edition, reproducing Stan Sakai’s breathtaking artwork at full size and in living colour. This edition includes the art from the very first Usagi story, the complete origin tale “Samurai,” and more!

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

For fans old and new of Stan Sakai and his creation Usagi Yojimbo there has never been a more prolific period of reprints. Beginning in earnest with Fantagraphics Usagi Yojimbo Special Edition, continuing with The Usagi Yojimbo Saga, and now this volume of original art reprints.

All stories here are from the Fantagraphics and Mirage era:

  • Amazing Heroes 187
  • Albedo 2
  • Critters 1,10-11
  • Usagi Yojimbo Vol 1 1-4, 24, 32
  • Usagi Yojimbo Vol 2 4-5

There’s a Foreword by Cary Grazzini, comic art introduction by Sakai, and closing biography. As well there is an “About This Edition” that discusses the two pages not from original art and that Sakai trims and cuts his own art boards so there is a varying size throughout.

Not sure who loves that story from Amazing Heroes detailing Sakai’s process, but it starts things off here like it did the Special Edition. Moving in we get the watch the evolution of Sakai’s design and Usagi changes and becomes the look we know today.

After the stories we’re treated to a Gallery, with covers, roughs, sketches, and unused art.

Scan quality is excellent. The art is very clean to begin with, and the aging is mild. All the art is slightly tanned, but it’s not clear if that’s aging or the boards themselves. Very few corrections to be found, but they’re here. Black levels are clearly visible in the early pages but stop in the middle, which seems to be more about how Sakai was inking than the scanning.

Production is excellent. Sewn binding, just loose enough to allow the book to fall mostly open. Heavy paper stock. Study covers. Dark Horse maintains a standard cover and index design for their Gallery Editions and it just works. The book came shrinkwrapped in a cardboard case with a black and white information sticker. The price and UPC is a sticker on the back of the book.

Grazzini is credited as designer and digital art technician, which from his foreword means he scanned all the artwork and put it together. It’s clean and simple, with endpapers being the same image in tan taken from a panel. There is one chapter divider using a Usagi image in the same red as the cover font and the indexes.

When this was solicited it had “Volume 1” in the title but that was dropped. Since these are early stories from Sakai let’s hope the sales justify additional volumes.