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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

'Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow' #1 is as Perfect a Comic as they Come

We review the Dark Horse Comics relaunch and get hyped for this new era in Stan Sakai's rabbit ronin saga.

Usagi Yojimbo Ice and Snow 1 Stan Sakai

The Rabbit Ronin is back! Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow picks up almost immediately after The Green Dragon storyline, the final chapter published under IDW. Miyamoto Usagi and his cousin Yukichi trudge through the mountains while a blistery winter storm threatens to freeze them to death. They are not alone. Eyes are upon them while other eyes seek to find them. To say any more would threaten to spoil the surprise. Peep that creepy, crawling hand in the image above, though.

As with all Stan Sakai comics, if you've never read an Usagi Yojimbo issue, you can jump on board with this one and have zero comprehension problems. There is no other cartoonist as new reader friendly as Stan Sakai. The ease in which he introduces characters and concepts is masterful and nearly invisible. If only others cared as much about fresh eyes as he...alas.

Next year, Usagi Yojimbo will celebrate its fortieth anniversary. I can't remember a world without the comic. Considering Sakai's seemingly ubiquitous presence in the industry, it's surprising whenever I find comic readers who still need to read his work. We (I) take Usagi Yojimbo for granted, and Sakai has tremendous opportunities for discovery and growth.

It's exhilarating to witness Usagi Yojimbo return to Dark Horse Comics, now in partnership with Julie and Stan Sakai's Dogu Publishing imprint. The artist shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, the lines are even tighter and more detailed than ever. As much as I marvel over Sakai's action sequences and how he pushes Usagi's blades through bandits, I'm even more impressed by the nature and architecture surrounding the ronin. We're at a point where we might forgive Sakai for cheating a background, but the cartoonist refuses to cheat himself.

Ice and Snow feels like a moment. A new number one is always an invitation. The die-hard Usagi Yojimbo readers are coming; we're a given, but here's a chance to absorb numerous newbies. With proper support, the issue could achieve that, and based on what we see from Dark Horse, the comic is getting some hefty publisher love. Next week, they're rolling out the red carpet with several rad variant covers and retailer exclusives from the likes of Scottie Young, Paolo Rivera, David Mack, Bill Morrison, Aaron Bartling, Deth Phimmasone, and Stan Sakai.

Ice and Snow is a perfect Usagi Yojimbo comic. Miyamoto stumbles into a situation demanding action; while initial threats are easily vanquished, larger threats prove far more challenging and allow the samurai to showcase his philosophy and character. Sakai continues to build the dynamic between Miyamoto and Yukichi, a partnership, unlike other couplings we've seen through the years. Clearly, Miyamoto has much to offer Yukichi, but maybe Yukichi has quite a bit to offer Miyamoto.

Quickie Review: Usagi Yojimbo is back at Dark Horse Comics - hurray! Ice and Snow should grab lots of new readers, and for old readers, it establishes a possible payoff for certain characters we've been obsessing over for years. Stan Sakai is better than ever, and again, he's delivered us a perfect comic.


Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow #1

Stan Sakai Usagi Yojimbo Ice and Snow 1

Writer: Stan Sakai

Artist: Stan Sakai

Letterer: Stan Sakai

Colorist: HiFi Colour Design

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Dogu Publishing

Cover Price: $4.99

On Sale: 9/27

Plot Synopsis: Usagi and Yukichi are still in the snowy mountaintops of Northern Japan, following Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo story arc, "The Green Dragon." They are led to the hut of a strange woman hermit who allows them to spend the night. Meanwhile, the maniacal Jei and his familiar, Keiko, are on Usagi's trail when they stumble upon a bandit lair and subdue the band of cutthroats and thieves.

* A new story starring Usagi Yojimbo and the new character, his cousin, Yukichi!

* Follows directly after the story The Green Dragon.


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