"…[I]n this hardscrabble world, fealty won’t put food on the table!"
Ogami Ittō continues his journey across Japan in the second omnibus from Dark Horse. The manga is less linear than the films, so it occasionally jumps back to offer insight into earlier times. It tells us why Ogami and Daigoro are on the road, what sparked the quest for retribution and what happened to the young boy's mother, as seen in the first part of the first film, Sword of Vengeance (1972).
Ogami is strong-willed and fierce when it comes to dealing with enemies. Yagyū Retsudō's assassins and hungry mercenaries lie in wait at every turn, hoping to best the swordsman and claim the reward, but the rōnin remains resolute in his duty even when confronted with seemingly impossible odds. When not engaged in swordplay, he's comforting and practical when it comes to family matters.
Goseki Kojima's artwork continues to help define the series. There's often page after page without dialogue, but the imagery speaks volumes. He'll follow a two-page spread of excessive bloodshed and fury with a single branch of cherry blossom suspended over a still pond and it won't seem out of place. Instead, it'll seem like the most natural progression ever.
The ease with which he's able to convey what young Daigoro is thinking deserves the highest praise I can give. Daigoro is just three-years-old, so he rarely speaks, but his simple, heartfelt expressions mean we're consistently privy to the Cub's thoughts; even more so in this volume because he gets a lot more to do.
I noticed something about Daigoro's character that was given more significance this time, or perhaps I simply overlooked it before. Whatever the case, it's subtle but all-important to his worldview.
I neglected to mention previously that covers are by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, so aren't representative of the superior B+W artwork inside.
The book collects together chapters 17 - 27 of the original Lone Wolf and Cub manga (the remainder of Vol 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger; all of Vol 4: The Bell Warden; and most of Vol 5: Black Wind). Make room on your shelf because if they release the remainder of the books in the same manner, with approximately two and half of the original volumes per omnibus, there'll be 11 books.
5 more steps along the white path out of 5
(EDIT: The DH website shows there to be 12 books in total.)