Notables 2010: Stan Sakai’s Traitors of the Earth

Stan Sakai, Traitors of the Earth. Usagi Yojimbo, nos. 117-9 -AND- Saya, MySpace Darkhorse Presents, print vol.3 Online issue 18, 2009.

Usagi Yojimbo presents a difficulty for us as editors of BAC. Every issue is strong, and they form such a tapestry when read one after another that it’s difficult to pull out any one bit and say, “this is the best Usagi.” “Traitors of the Earth” has the advantage of being a relatively short, self-contained story, and “Saya” is even more so. Both are compulsively readable, and good places to start if you’re not already reading the series.

Traitors of the Earth is a ghost story, or more accurately, a zombie-samurai story, with lots of sword-play, of course. 300 years previously, a defeated army was left unburied, and now they’re back for more. Kitsune the thief (pal of UY) gets tangled up in all this by stealing the wrong guy’s purse.

Saya is a very neatly-structured tale that begins and ends with peasants singing a folksong encouraging samurai to keep their swords sheathed. Of course, this is impossible in a Usagi tale, but there’s no actual bloodshed this time, just a quick lesson in manners. This is one unique strength of the book: there’s plenty of Japanese culture, language, and tradition layered seamlessly into every story.

Age: grades 4-6, as long as you’re OK with cartoony by bloody battles.

What is this “Notable” thing all about? Matt and Jessica are the series editors for the Best American Comics, and are responsible for the Notable Comics list at the back of the book, which is comprised of virtually all the comics we sent to the guest editor that weren’t picked, as well as a number of others that we think are noteworthy for various reasons, but that we didn’t send to the guest editor.

We’ve always hoped readers will delve a bit into the list to find more great stories once they finish reading BAC. Realistically, though, we know that’s tough. What can you know about a story from a title and author? So this is one of a series of posts focusing on each of the Notables from the 2010Best American Comics.

Have or know of a comic we should look at? Find submission info here.

The “age” suggestion is what we think might be the minimum age for reading and appreciating a work. All works on the list, though, should appeal to older audiences too. It’s a minimum suggestion only.



4 Comments to Notables 2010: Stan Sakai’s Traitors of the Earth

  • by Mono

    On April 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing the marvel of Sakai’s work with the world. I love this book but sometimes fear for its future due to its niche appeal. There’s nothing like it.

  • by Thinkingstone

    On April 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I love Usagi. Ever since I was about ten I’ve been interested in that rabbit samurai, and as I got older (and started making money) I’ve been collecting every issue I could find. The stories are always fantastic, the art is cartoony but very good, and you actually learn a little of Japanese society in the “middle ages” as it were. I also got to meet Stan Sakai at a comic convention once and it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done so far in my life. I highly recommend this comic, not just for young readers, though I know my nephews both love it, but for adults as well. If you like samurai, and don’t mind animals, then check it out.

  • by Jessica

    On April 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    @thinkingstone: I agree. Remember, the “age” there is a minimum, not at all a maximum! All ages can enjoy UY. I just lent a copy to a 6-yr-old neighbor of mine with the idea that his parents will also love it.

  • by Ron Good

    On April 12, 2011 at 1:12 am

    There are quite a few comics about samurai, but Usagi Yojimbo is the best. Hands down. ‘Nuff said!

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