Before I begin this column (which is overdue forever ago) I want to state that by and large, I like Greg Pak’s writing. Although Immortal Hulk is an amazing book, Totally Awesome Hulk was a lot of fun. Amadeus Cho as the Hulk is a fun concept and I do hope it gets its light in the sun again someday. Also, I was a big fan of his Eternal Warrior run and was really curious to see where it was going before it was cut short.
I’m also a very big Japanese Anime/Manga/Light Novel fan. I think the Japanese Light Novel is a brilliant concept of a novel. Melding illustrations with pictures and creating very entertaining reads is a great idea, and something I feel that should be done a lot more often in literature. Words and pictures do belong together. That all said, the style is also different and the storytelling space is generally a little slower pace.
Which is why when I saw Aero and Swordmaster I was at first hesitant. I figured both books would be a change of pace, but I wasn’t sure how much of it I wanted to do. So I picked up the first arc of both.
So my first surprise reading both books is that they had both the main story and a backup story. The main story came from the original source material in which Greg Pak translated. Now, I won’t comment too much here. I will say that translating work does allow for more creativity than one might imagine. Languages create unique thoughts that don’t translate quite into each culture, so there is some room there to add to a story. Still, for the purposes of this review, I’m going to talk about the backup stories of each book.
The Worst of Greg Pak…
I really did not like this backup story. I have no problem with Wave as a character, nor do I mind the focus primarily being there, but if you read the main story, you can tell that Zhou Liefen, the writer of the main Aero story, had put a lot of thought into Aero’s voice and personality. Aero is architect Lei Ling, trying to balance her normal life and being the protector of the city. Her voice, her fears of commitment and keeping things at arm’s length is an interesting character flaw to explore as she protects the city of Shanghai from a variety of threats, including her teacher.
When I read the backup story, it doesn’t connect to the main story at all. There is no real detail about Aero, who is more of a reactionary character to Wave. Now maybe the goal is to make Wave a more relevant part of Marvel. Again, I get that, but there is very little semblance of the character of the main story.
Pop Mhan did a great job with the backups, but it felt very light on the reading. Maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.
The Best of Greg Pak…
Swordmaster, on the other hand, has an amazing backup story, while the main one kind of feels more paint by numbers. Lin Lie is searching for his dad who has vanished, leaving behind a mystical sword of power, that Lin doesn’t have a clue how to use, but the forces of Chi You, the God of War threaten to kill him and never find out.
This is very much a Joseph Campbell Heroe’s journey. It’s fun, but it’s nothing I haven’t read before. But the backups are sheer gold.
Shang Chi is inserted into the backups as a mentor for Lin and the two of them together is amazing. First off, any comic that has Shang Chi in it is usually automatically just better by default. But the master of Kung Fu is only part of the charm here. The puzzle-solving Lin and his sword is a big part of the story, with Ares and others trying to steal it. There was a lot more attention to detail with these backups with the characterization of the Lin and everyone else.
I should give credit to Fonda Lee as well. Now if you haven’t let yourself, check out a book by Fonda. She is incredibly gifted as a storyteller (Jade City, in particular, is amazing. Gangs of New York meets Hong Kong meets magic. Pure awesome.) and those two crafted incredible backups. My only critique is the ending. The ending of them was rushed and it’s too bad. I’d read a Swordmaster/Shang Chi book any day of the week and you should too. Those backups are great.
Credit as well to Ario Anidito for some kinetic pencils. I’m down for this anytime guys.
Monthly comics isn’t always high art, and no one I feel can bat a thousand. But I feel these two books can show the difference between getting a character and not. But what do you think? Am I crazy for feeling this way? Comment.
New Podcasts continue to roll into the new year. My current guest is Indie Author Jim Jackson. Jim and I have a great talk about music, storytelling and how to disarm people in the best ways. Take a listen and give me a shout with how you think.
I hope the next column I’ll be able to announce a novel. In the meantime, stay inspired, and keep reading good books. Next, I talk about shopping local.