Saturday, January 30, 2016

Origins of Chinese Martial Arts

Here's a graphic novel about the history of Chinese martial arts that I bought in a bookstore in Shanghai.

Title: Origins of Chinese Martial Arts
Publisher: Asiapac Books
Date: 2010
Artist: Jack Cheong
Editor: Loh Chong Chai

Nice overview of the Chinese martial arts, mixing prose historical passages with comic-format short stories. The stories are mostly mythical in nature, although some are more historical, including a short biography of Bruce Lee. My favorite of the stories was the origin of Yue Maiden Sword, a tale of a girl who matches martial arts skills with a stick-wielding ape, and goes on to create a whole new style of sword techniques.

If found the very beginning to be a bit shaky, as it gives some vague speculation about the prehistoric beginnings of the fighting arts (accompanied by silly illustrations), but once the book got into the founding of the Shaolin and Wudang schools, it definitely kept my interest.

Jack Cheong's illustration style is clear and vibrant, and nicely captures the martial arts technique. I appreciate his mixing of male and female martial artists on the exercise technique illustrations that the book concludes with.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Volume 1 (Hardcover Library Edition)

Brought home from the school library by my son.

Title: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher: Lucas Books, Dark Horse Comics, Spotlight
Date: 2010
Writer: George Lucas, Miles Lane
Artist: Douglas Wheatley
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Michael David Thomas
Cover: Dave Dorman

My son is rapidly learning to love all things Star Wars. Today, he brought this graphic novel adaptation home from the school library (which has a pretty decent graphic novel selection, considering the library is relatively small overall).

This is a 24-page hardcover edition that was originally released as a standard-format comic book. The hardcover treatment is because this is a library edition, although it still seems a bit excessive. They couldn't wait and at least put all four issues in one hardcover to give the complete plot of the movie?

It is a nice-looking book, with a classic-style painted cover by Dave Dorman that evokes the Tim Hildebrandt Star Wars movie poster.

The story, well, it is what it is. None of the Star Wars prequels were all that good, and this one is generally considered the best of a bad bunch, but the action here comes off as either lacking in drama or having drama that is overly forced. Palpatine and Anakin have not subtlety, and no nuance, and the background political discussions form a kind of dull, droning infodump.

Interior artist Douglas Wheatley does a good job of adapting the look of the film, but his reliance on small panels makes the story feel rushed and misses opportunities to play up dramatic moments.

Without some big splash-page art, my son was ready to wander off before we finished this.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Some Chinese Comics

We spent our Christmas vacation in China, spending a few nights each in Shanghai, Wuxi, and Beijing.

In Wuxi, I got my hands on a few examples of local comics.

The first was a kids' giveaway at a restaurant chain called Mr. Pizza (which had pretty good food on a night when we decided to go with a Western style dinner, by the way). It appears to be a mythical origin story of the restaurant.

More interesting were a couple of books I picked up at a small gift and nostalgia shop in the historical district of Wuxi. These pocket-sized books are illustrated with one picture per page, with accompanying text. They're definitely old, but I couldn't find any indication of a publication date.

One is a biography of Chairman Mao. The other appears to be a period romance.

Here is a look at some interior art.

As usual, I don't rate comics in languages I don't read. But I do enjoy seeing examples of comics from different countries.