Catching up with Usagi Yojimbo

Until I came across a stack of recent collections at my local library, I hadn’t read any Usagi Yojimbo for a few years — I knew I’d missed all of the recent full-color collections from IDW, but not that I’d also missed a few from the end of the series at Dark Horse, back when it was still published in black-and-white. The series is as good as ever, and as much as I liked the old uncolored books the newer collections are fabulous, too. These are the three I liked best.

Usagi Yojimbo: Mysteries (Volume 32) by Stan Sakai. Introduction by Yuki Matsuzaki. Dark Horse, 2018. 9781506705842. 180pp plus a cover/pinup gallery. Contains #159-165 of UY Volume 3.

Usagi comes across a dead, high-ranking samurai in the woods, and finds a little girl hiding nearby. On his way to take her to Inspector Ishida, they’re accosted by some samurai who want the girl and even go so far as to attack Usagi when he’s buying her a meal. It’s a huge mistake and only the beginning of a larger mystery that starts with finding the girl’s father’s confession. Thieves Kiyoko and Kitsune make an appearance, and of course my favorite scenes are the “The Body in the Library” chapters.

Usagi Yojimbo: Homecoming (Volume 35) by Stan Sakai, colors by Tom Luth. Introduction by Peach Momoko. IDW, 2021. 9781684058020. Contains #8-14 of UY Volume 4.

This volume starts with a graphic lesson on how tatami mats are made, which plays into the plot. Usagi heads to the north province where he grew up. He crosses paths with samurai transporting new tatami mats for Lord Gifu, who will use them as part of a tea ceremony for an emissary of the shogun. When the samurai are attacked, Usagi helps defend the tatami from the ninja. Later Usagi is pursued because he continues to wear the mon of Lord Mifune, which begins a journey to his home village, Mariko (the woman he loved), and Kenichi, his childhood friend and rival. Katsuichi-sensei (Usagi’s teacher) and Jotaro, who is secretly now Usagi’s son, also make appearances. The best part of the color version: seeing the blue Usagi wears during the fight scenes.

Usagi Yojimbo: Tengu War! (Volume 36) by Stan Sakai, art assist by Randy Clute, colors by Hi-Fi Design. Introduction by Kevin Eastman. IDW, 2022. 9781684058754. Contains #15-21 of UY Volume 4.

Usagi seeks his other master, a one-handed tengu named Sojobo. There’s a flashback to how Usagi earned the right to be trained by him, and, in the present day, as you might guess from the title, Usagi finds himself in the midst of a war between supernatural creatures. Toward the end of the story he meets someone from his past, from just as he fled the battlefield with Lord Mifune’s head. And then Usagi meets Yukichi, who remembers when their paths crossed years ago.


One thought on “Catching up with Usagi Yojimbo”

  1. Craig Seasholes says:

    So here is it is, the “spark book” that caught my attention and led me to the genre and my friendship with Larry Reid at Fantagrahics. Thanks, guys.

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