Staff Picks – Week of 19/06/2019

Usagi Yojimbo #1
Stan Sakai (w/a), Tom Luth (c)

Scott says: Usagi Yojimbo has always been ‘one of those titles’ for me; one of a fairly select bunch of titles I’ve put on a pedestal and gazed upon from afar, promising myself one day I’ll treat myself to gorging on it’s enormity and enjoyability.

Stan Sakai’s protagonist, ronin and ‘rabbit bodyguard’ Miyamoto Usagi, has been having episodic adventures while traversing Edo period Japan since 1984, with at this point over two hundred issues published – an incredibly impressive feat for Sakai who is, in-keeping with other legendary long-form Japanese story-tellers, both writer and artist.

It was with all this in mind that I was surprised and excited to see IDW’s new Usagi Yojimbo series drop in my lap last Wednesday. Printing the Bunraku storyline across three issues, this was a fantastic entry point for my stubborn Western comic format sensibility. Diving right in I was greeted by simple but effective line-work and thick, solid inks. The scripting is direct and plot-driven, with pleasant historical referencing and footnotes directing readers to previous UY books. All this is met with gentle, flat colours from Tom Luth of Groo the Wanderer acclaim.

I read this in a heartbeat, enjoying every panel and page thoroughly, in much the same way I’ve always enjoyed Mike Allred’s Madman books – fun, wholesome romps through well-thought-out worlds with loveable characters. Head to Orbital Comics and grab a copy before they’re all gone!

Pearl #10
Brian Michael Bendis (w), Michael Gaydos (a)
DC Comics

Chief says: As Pearl nears it’s end with only 2 issues to go, it’s worth taking stock of what a great series this has been. When Bendis made the move over to DC, my fingers were crossed for a new series of say, Gotham Central, fusing Bendis’ love of the dialogue-driven crime book that he co-created with Pearl’s artist Michael Gaydos, Alias. Instead, we got this and I’ve never been so happy to be disappointed.

Pearl has been every bit as fascinating a character as Jessica Jones. An albino tattoo artist who has ties to the San Francisco Yakuza and a past even she isn’t aware of… It’s modern movie noir, using Japanese formalism, American plotting and Gaydos unique artistic overlays to produce a fusion of Sam Fuller-esque hard-bitten crime and the neon-soaked realm of something like Drive.

This issue is very much a breather, with Pearl and maybe-boyfriend Rick trying to take a break from that Yakuza life and live ‘normal’. Do you think it’s gonna work for them? There’s a slow drive and muted energy to this book that belies it’s fiery criminal heart, beating away and ready to kill. It’s shame it’s ending, but it ain’t over ’till it’s over and damn if this book doesn’t make a rain covered, blood-stained comeback sometime soon! Of course if you can’t wait that long, come get the first TPB in the store now. We don’t do tattoos, but if we did, we’d hire Pearl Tanaka and ask her to get carving.

Rolled & Told Volume 1 HC
Lion Forge

Will says: Rolled & Told is a monthly series which marries a love for comics with a passion for role-playing games. This is something that will always rise to the top of my reading pile every release. I absolutely adore it! Not only does it provide you with a full adventure to play and engaging articles, but they are accompanied by fantastic comics and beautiful illustrations. It’s a match made in heaven for any game master out there.

This hardback collection features the content from the first 7 issues (#0-6) re-organised by content, so all the adventures are together for instance. These adventures really are the heart of the book. They are designed to be played with Dungeons and Dragons 5e, can easily be adjusted for your preferred play style. There are a total of 13 collected (7 full, 6 mini) and I can’t stress enough how great they are. They are presented such that you can jump right into them; complete with maps, stats for enemies and NPCs, potential treasure, and concise background information and exposition. The comics and drawings alongside them (featuring an incredible array of talent from the comics scene!) really allow for easy immersion and set the tone of a session perfectly. The adventures themselves are a breath of fresh air to what I have usually experienced reading other campaigns. They are full of heart and love for the game. They skip the waffle and get you right into the fun of a session. The dungeons are amazing too, usually containing a clever gimmick keeping them all unique. My only complaint is that the maps (which are also beautiful) should not have been put into a separate chapter, but together with their adventures!

If you’ve missed out on buying any of the singles of this before, this is such an amazing buy for any role-playing enthusiast. Okay, so like me, you’ve been buying the singles, do I need to buy this hardcover? It does include some additional artwork, but ultimately the answer is no. Regardless, that’s never stopped me from buying something in the past! I am purchasing this; one, because I want to support this series as much as possible and two, because I’m a sucker for hardcovers! It fits so nicely amongst the rest of my ever-increasing collection of role-playing books. If this is your sort of thing, do check this book out. It really does include some phenomenal content.