New “Crossroads” Storyline and Seminal Usagi Yojimbo Tale Offer Excellent Entry Points to the World of Acclaimed Cartoonist Stan Sakai
Celebrate the new year with two milestone events for Usagi Yojimbo, the beloved epic fantasy by Stan Sakai and winner of two of this year’s Eisner Awards, including “Best Continuing Series”! In January, a new storyline entitled “Crossroads” will debut in the pages of Usagi Yojimbo #25, while longtime fans and curious newcomers can revisit the early adventures of the rabbit ronin, now in full color, with the launch of the six-issue miniseries Usagi Yojimbo: Lone Goat and Kid.
Usagi Yojimbo reaches the 25th issue of its full-color, monthly series at IDW with a new two-part storyline, “Crossroads.” In this tale, Usagi and Yukichi have left the Northern Province where Usagi was branded a criminal as a Lord Mifune loyalist. They come upon a group of pilgrims traveling to the local temples, set upon and left for dead by a band of cutthroat ronin with no regard for the law. In hunting after them, Usagi and Yukichi must head back to the very province from which they just escaped!
“Yukichi is Usagi’s cousin, and someone with whom he will be traveling for a while,” says Sakai. “Yukichi is younger and less experienced so Usagi has to take on the role of mentor, though he learns a few things himself. I like the dynamics between these two and their travels make good springboards for new adventures.”
For comic readers interested in seeing vintage Usagi tales through a new lens, the upcoming Usagi Yojimbo: Lone Goat and Kid miniseries reprints a selection of seminal short stories in full color for the first time. The debut issue revisits the tale of “Frost and Fire,” wherein our hero is tasked with retrieving a slain samurai’s swords… provided that he can solve an impossible moral quandary first. As a special bonus, David Petersen, the acclaimed creator of Mouse Guard, will provide the cover artwork for all six issues.
“I grew up reading and watching Lone Wolf and Cub in manga, movies, and television, so when I was thinking of new characters, this series came to mind as a homage/parody. My first thought was ‘Lone Bear and Cub’ but changed it to ‘Lone Goat and Kid’, which I like even better. I love that kid because, as in the original, he does almost nothing but is still essential to the story,” says Sakai.
Written and illustrated by Sakai for more than 35 years, Usagi Yojimbo is set in a unique world based on 17th century Japan. A ronin, Miyamoto Usagi traverses this unique world – a landscape populated by ghosts, dinosaurs, monsters, and warriors of all kinds – honing his skills, saving villages, and often navigating delicate affairs of national/political significance.
Sakai’s deft weaving of history, folklore, and Japanese culture into Usagi Yojimbo has made it a critical favorite, adored by comic readers. New full-color adventures of Sakai’s classic character began in 2019 with IDW’s monthly comic series, collected in three volumes so far (Bunraku and Other Stories, Homecoming, and Tengu War!). Meanwhile, classic tales have been made available in full color for the first time ever as part of the Usagi Yojimbo Origins trade paperback series. This past June, Sakai and his wife, Julie Fujii Sakai, released Chibi-Usagi: Attack of the Heebie Chibis, an original graphic novel illustrated in a fun, cartoony style welcoming to young new readers.
“It’s been a real treat to see Stan’s new stories come to life month-to-month while also revisiting his early work in our color reprint series,” says editor Bobby Curnow. “What’s utterly remarkable is how engaging the world of Usagi Yojimbo has always been and still is. The humanity of Stan’s characters and stories always shines through with wit, action, and heart, regardless of the year.”