August 06, 2007
by: Serdar Yegulalp
It's every kung fu fantasy ever made, rolled into one ... part two!
Manhua Description: It's been years since Hero lost his son and servant Sheng Nu to the abyss near the No Shadow School. Unbeknownst to Hero, they have survived, but not without much trepidation and repeated peril. The seemingly villainous Hell's Gate will stop at nothing to grant the dying wish of their deceased leader: to make Hero's young son the new clan leader of the infamous Hell's Gate!
Content: (This section may contain spoilers.)
I’ve come to a conclusion about the Chinese Hero stories. You don’t read them for the insanely convoluted plot, for that way lies utter madness. You read them for the sheer headlong rush they give you, like watching four different kung-fu movies all projected onto the same screen at the same time. Yes, there is a story in there, but it takes a backseat to the spectacle, the energy, and the insane lexicon of martial-arts moves, styles, postures, and attacks that are iterated throughout. If you liked the first volume, then by all means dive into the second one, as Volume 2 is a logical extension of all the same things that made it such a fun ride.
The first few chapters are devoted to capping off the clash between the hero, Hero (I’m never going to get used to typing that), his allies, and General Satan—who sports the best name for a bad guy since “Princess Dragon Mom” of Infra-Man all those years ago. Said fight ends with General Satan withdrawing rather than experiencing outright defeat, but dark forces still lurk in wait and leap forward to claim more of Hero’s allies. But most of the book is actually taken up with a different plotline: Sheng Nu, Hero’s longtime servant, now hiding Hero’s son from General Satan and everyone else who may be after them.
Hero still believes Sheng and the boy—Jian Xiong—to be dead, but they’re faring quite well. In fact, Jian grows up into quite the little hellion: not a bad kid, just lacking in the kind of restraint that Dad would probably have imposed in two seconds. Then come the gangs from Death Gate—the Skull Goblins and their two female commanders, the White Scorpion and White Snake Elder, all seeking Jian. Why? Not to exterminate him, but to make him into the new leader of the clan—in effect, to turn the boy against his own father.
A slick plan, to be sure—but the kid’s got more than a few tricks up his sleeves (and in his socks), and by the last stretch of the book he’s convinced the Death Gate folks to do his bidding, and maybe even (gasp) do the right thing. Whether or not he can actually pull it off … well, that’s another story, one for the next installment. And it’s a story I now plan on sticking around to find out more about.
(C) 2006 Culturecom Limited. English edition by DGN Productions, Inc.
Art: Wing Shing Ma’s gorgeous and detailed designs are second to none; this is one of those books where the beautiful, painterly art on the cover is not a bait-and-switch. It’s strongly reminiscent of the kind of work Ryoichi Ikegami did for Crying Freeman—very bold, masculine lines; powerful action poses; and a wonderful command of color and tone. (Ma has in fact referred specifically to Ikegami as an inspiration, and the two of them traded warm praise for each other’s work when they finally did meet.) I’m not sure how much of a change this version is over any previous editions of the comic, but it doesn’t feel like any changes have been made for the worse.
Translation: For the most part, it’s a fine job. The original Chinese lettering has been digitally removed and replaced with English, although the effects are not always translated (and when they are, they’re left in place and annotated rather than being removed entirely). A little more editorial oversight—especially in the introductory section—could have helped, too, but the mistakes I spotted were not fatal.
The Bottom Line: The first book set the tone—a wild ride—and the second book continues the tradition admirably. There’s enough action in any one installment of Chinese Hero to fill any four other manga—so if that’s your idea of a recommendation, by all means take it in that spirit.