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10.26.2003 by Scott, every Thursday.

Ah, October is here, and that means Hallowe'en is fast approaching. As a child growing up, this meant super hero costumes for me, and always got me excited. My mother, who was a wiz with the sewing machine, had crafted several super duds for me. I have gone trick or treating as Spider-man, Superman, Green Lantern and even He-Man, and each time, my mother would taylor them so that they would fit over my snow suit, and reassure me that she did so so it would look like I was muscled. Thanks mom.

This week, it's time to take a closer look at some less mainstream comics. We'll take a look at “Usagi Yojimbo”, “B.P.R.D”, and finally a sneak peek at “Sigil”#41. This selection brings together a nice mix of characters, from a ronin samurai bunny rabbit, to a suicidal pyrokinetic investigator of the supernatural, to a space captain fighting off a horde of aliens. Something for everyone, of course.

Stan Sakai tackles both the writing and art chores on his book, Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi had bounced around between a few indy publishers, and even had crossed over with the ”Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” before finding a home at Dark Horse. Usagi is a ronin samurai who is roaming the countryside look for adventure and lending a hand to those in need. He is honourable, sensable, and often gets himself caught up in the most calamatous events, stuck in the whirlwind and only able to do the best he can to survive. In issue #66, a new story arc titled ”Sumi-e” is kicked off, and in this one, giant monsters run amok. Here, an evil mage has been using enchanted ink to terrorize a small village that Usagi is passing through. It seems that whatever the mage paints with this ink comes to life and does his bidding. From giant bugs to huge stone warriors, Usagi tries to stop him with only the help of a mysterious stranger who seems to have inside knowledge as to what is going on. Too bad he doesn't stop long enough to fill in Usagi. Sakai is a masterful storyteller, and his clean and minimalist art is infact very expressive. The book does have a bit of continuity from issue to issue, but at the same time, it is remarkable not bogged down in it, and that makes it easy to just jump on board and get into the story. Of all the comics I've read in recent months, Usagi Yojimbo is the most fun.

B.P.R.D. is about the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, where Hellboy works. Each issue is a self-contained story, allowing readers to be able to pick it up and read straight through without being lost in continuity. Alone with the aforementioned Hellboy: Weird Tales, B.P.R.D. is one of the new titles being published by Dark Horse to have more Hellboy related material on comic racks before the movie comes out next year. In B.P.R.D. “Night Train”, written by JSA scribe Geoff Johns, the story features three of the supporting characters from the Hellboy-verse, pyro-kinetic Liz Sherman, Roger the Homunculus, and WWII hero/ghost, Lobster Johnson. The story revolves around a haunted train that was transporting key American scientists and troops. A nazi saboteur got aboard, and wielded a double edged sword, trapping Lobster and his kid sidekick, and blowing up the train. There were only two survivors, Lobster Johnson, and the Nazi. Fifty years later, the train has returned in Alabama, haunting a small town, and Roger and Liz are sent in to check it out.

Johns is a favorite of mine, stemming from his work in JSA, which I adore, and the art by penciller Scott Kolins was fresh and vibrant, giving added oomph to the book. Industry critics have long complained that there were no good single story books out there, and B.P.R.D. proves them worng.

And a peek at the newest Sigil comic can be seen here:


-Scott MacIver

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