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My Love Affair With Scrooge McDuck (And The Carl Barks Library Vol. 12)

I love Scrooge McDuck. When I was a kid DuckTales was essential Disney Afternoon viewing for me every day when I came home from school. It was that Indiana Jones type of pulpy exotic adventure that I loved, lush locations and d-d-danger (right behind you) all in the name of accumulating more riches. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found out Scrooge was originated in comics going way back to the 1950’s by Carl Barks. After grabbing a smattering of the old issues here and there to test the waters I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So I decided to do the only right thing left for me to do an order the first volume of the Carl Barks Library.

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Evil Geek Book Report – Usagi Yojimbo, Book 2: Samurai

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When I was a boy the Fantasy genre was something I couldn’t escape. I found it fascinating; it was able to capture a young Biff Tannen’s imagination. The older I got though and less I was able to suspend my disbelief, the more I moved away from it. In adulthood I stumbled into classic period Samurai movies. They seemed almost like the real world equivalent to Fantasy movies. It’s such an interesting time period and culture that’s filled with ancient mysticism.

While Book 1 of Usagi Yojimbo rounded up all the one offs and random appearances of the character Miyaomoto Usagi prior to his own series, Book 2 focuses on the first six issues of the inaugural Usagi Yojimbo series originally put out by Fantographics in 1986. It picks up on many of the threads and characters introduced in Book 1 but is not necessary to have read prior to this. Rather than focusing on individual tales of Usagi, Book 2 paints a portrait of his past.

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Evil Geek Book Report – Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1: The Ronin

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This samurai bunny looked familiar to me. I searched the recesses of my mind and realized I had seen him in the 80s TMNT cartoon when I was a kid. After doing a little research I found out that Usagi was the longest running comic book series that Dark Horse ever had. Written and drawn by Stan Sakai, it stars a Samurai rabbit in feudal Japan. Given my interest in Akira Kurosawa’s films and samurai culture as well as all the high praise for the series, checking it out was a no brainer.

I decided to start right at the beginning with book 1 that collects all one shots and stories published prior to the start of the ongoing series in 1987. From cover to cover this was a refreshing read. All crisp black and white art, light on dialogue and simple tales of morality.The book centers around Miyamoto Usagi a samurai whose master he was sworn to protect died during a battle in a war. Usagi bound by the Japanese honor code bushido was left to wander and offer his protection for hire as a bodyguard (yojimbo).

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Each story in the collection is episodic and doesn’t necessarily need to be read to understand the next one. Usagi’s past isn’t delved into but we do pick up bits and pieces during flashbacks. All of the characters in the book are different kind of anthropomorphic animals which really helps create its own strange world. The fight scenes depicted don’t always work out on the printed page. Samurai movies (or if you’ve ever seen the Kill Bill movies) the battle scenes are full of lighting fast kinetic fluid action that is hard to duplicate on the page. Sakai does an admirable job though, all things considered.

This book does an excellent job introudcing Japanese folklore and fables to western audiences. It can be read by a teenager or someone who is 60. Both would enjoy it but on different levels and get something completely different out of these tales. Which is the mark of something truly great, isn’t it? Most reviews I read said to skip this volume and start with the second one that covers Usagi’s origin story in full. If that’s the case, I really liked book 1 I sure as hell can’t wait for book 2.

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