Chinese Hero Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Ron Quezon
Review Date: Monday, May 28, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Wing Shing M
Translated by:Yun Zhao
Adapted by:Matthew A. Scrivner

What They Say
As a child, Hero's family was attacked and killed by a practitioner of Northern Mantis kung fu. This assassin was tasked by the affluent head of a local triad to retrieve Hero's family heirloom: the legendary Blood Sword. Barely escaping with his life, Hero has now reached adulthood. He's mastered several forms of kung fu to aid him in his one lifelong endeavor: to safeguard the family treasure. But now his enemies turn their gaze to his newborn son.

The Review
Packaging:
Chinese Hero has a white front cover with a large picture of Hero posing with the Blood Sword. On the right, Hero's blue martial arts suit contrasts with the vibrant red colored Blood Sword. The black English version of the Chinese Hero title reads on the left side just below the orange Chinese character version of the title. Below both titles is the author's name followed by the volume number. The raised lettering on the front cover complements the smooth texture of the thick paperback cover.

The back cover is black with a summary in white lettering. Hero is posing in a gray suit and hat with a bright red hawk to the right side of the cover. Along the bottom of the back cover are the standard logos including ISBN, suggested age rating, DGN production and Dr Master logo.

Extras include character bios, table of contents, and an extensive prologue. The color character bios include such things as martial arts styles and characteristics and are intermixed with the black and white prologue. The prologue consists of excerpts from the original black and white publications and quickly summarizes the story background.

Dr Master did an impressive job with the packaging on this one. It is well put together, the paper and ink are vibrant, and the manga has many extras. However, my copy had production problems with a total of 8 super imposed pages. For example, page 167 was printed on one pass, and then that same sheet had page 268 printed on top of it, making the page illegible. Unfortunately, these super imposed pages occurred at pivotal points in the story. Consequently, the rating was lowered from a solid A down to a B-.

Artwork:
Chinese Hero has an American graphic novel style similar to Marvel or DC Comics. While the coloring is not as crisp as other colorized manga, the panels are still vibrant and detailed. The inking is clean, does not run, and looks like each panel was colorized manually with color pencil rather than digitally color enhanced.

Just like the old late night Kung Fu B movies, the highlight of this manga is the fights scenes. Chinese Hero pulls off the delicate balance of depicting action with enough detail to follow the choreography, yet not overwhelming the reader. Though Wing Shing Ma chose not to create two-page spreads, there are several impressive full page action scenes involving Hero, Monk Lohan, and others. Wing Shing Ma effectively uses speed lines, action paths, and panel arrows to immerse the readers into the fight.

Some characters have the 80's look: feathered, longer haircuts, and big eyes with rounder faces like characters in The Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Other characters look like they were just taken right out of a live action martial arts movie-- clothed in multicolored traditional Chinese wardrobes, complete with wisdom caps. Lastly, a few characters look like they were inspired by American graphic novels and culture. Goliath looks like the Incredible Hulk, Heavy Hitter looks like Mr. T, and Ghost Servant looks like Vega from Street Fighter 2.

Text/Translation:
The Chinese honorifics are changed to English equivalents. The font used within the dialog bubbles is easy to read-- all caps and varying sizes. Most text and sound effects are translated and positioned adjacent to the original writing in similar style, color, and size. Translated mostly word for word, some of the original nuances were lost in the crossover to English (i.e. "lazy elephant stretches back"). The pacing and dialog are choppy, but still engage the reader.

Sound effects are not consistently translated in this volume (at least ten were left un-translated), but does not impact the story. In addition, a couple spots in the volume had editorial typos (complete with question marks next to the text) such as publication location and Yaris' character biography.

Content:
Chinese Hero chronicles the life of martial arts master Hero (Yin Xiong Hua), keeper of the legendary Blood Sword. In the early 1900's, a young man named Hero was orphaned and took ownership of the family heirloom, the Blood Sword, to avenge his parents' death. He was forced to flee and in his travels he became apprenticed to the elite martial arts masters. Hero mastered several fighting styles and learned to control the Blood Sword: once it touches blood, it becomes alive with power! In previous story arcs, Hero became embroiled in a power struggle within the Black Dragon Gang. This story picks up after the collapse of the Black Dragon Gang.

Hero, Jade (his wife), his infant twins, and Sheng Nu (Hero's long time friend) are on an ocean voyage back to their native China. Chaos breaks out when Jade is poisoned and Hero is attacked by assassins on his way back to the cabin. Hero finds out that the Black Dragon Gang is alive and well. More importantly, the leader and Hero's enemy, General Satan, has ordered assassins to finish them all.

Rushing back to his cabin, Hero fends off attacks from hypnotized members of the crew and a midget and giant duo, David and Goliath. In the meantime, Sheng Nu has his hands full protecting the twins from General Satan's henchmen and trying to keep Jade alive. Hero manages to overcome Goliath but arrives too late and finds Jade is dead. After a brief mourning period, Hero goes topside to face the lead assassins, 100 Year Demon and her pupil, Poison Master.

Hero unleashes a Blood Sword attack, "white dragon frolics above water," and a tremendous fight ensues with multiple fighting styles. The battle rages on and Hero plunges his sword into Poison Master. During the mayhem, David takes advantage of the confusion and steals Hero's twins. On deck, Sheng Nu joins the battle and helps Hero overcome 100 Year Demon. As she collapses she takes David down with her, but not before David throws Hero's daughter overboard.

A devastated Hero and Sheng Nu arrive in China and bury Hero's wife and daughter in a rural Shanghai cemetery. The next morning, both wake up and discover things have taken a turn for the worse-- his son has been kidnapped! With his family stripped from him, he has no choice but to follow the kidnapper's instructions and proceed to the No Shadow School. The Blood Sword, Sheng Nu, and determination at his side, Hero races out on his new quest to save his son.

Will Hero save his son in time? What is the No Shadow School? How far is the Black Dragon Gang's reach? How far will Hero be willing to go to save his son and avenge his family?

Comments
Those of you who enjoy the late night Kung Fu B movies will find Chinese Hero hard to pass up! This story is a visually stunning compilation of martial arts battles and Hero's fight against increasingly impossible odds. Essentially a manga adaptation of one of your favorite Kung Fu movies, it is packed with intricate action sequences and martial arts moves like "shooting star chasing moon."

Even if you are not a fan of martial arts manga, this publication deserves to be looked over at least once or twice. The artwork was done in the 80's (with matching 80's hairstyles), but the story has a timeless appeal. It takes place in the 1900's, but makes the transition to 2007 very well, much like a Jet Li Once Upon a Time in China film.

As in so many Kung Fu B movies, the plot is heavy on fighting and light on character/ story development. Aside from the three or four main characters, it is unclear what motivates the other characters. The villains (which are many) are one dimensional and emotionally simple. As for the story development, the Death Gate mini arc is confusing. Passing through Death Gate and the mountain of blades adds a fantasy component that doesn't mesh with the larger story.

My previous experiences with Dr Master titles were not always so positive. In general, typos and sloppy translations were the bulk of my previous experiences. I would still recommend going to a bookstore where you can examine the manga for any super imposed pages. That being said, Chinese Hero is an impressive package. I consider this effort by Dr Master to be a step in the right direction and hope that Vol 2 of Chinese Hero is equally notable.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
MSRP: 19.95
Pages: 272
ISBN: 1-59796-041-1
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Chinese Hero