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‘Rise of the Kung Fu Dragon Master:’ Graphic Novel Review

What is it? In a nutshell, it’s a love letter to martial arts flicks and Chosen One narratives. If you like stories about an unwitting rascal who learns that he’s inherited the weighty responsibility of saving the world, you’ll like this. Think if Han Solo and Luke Skywalker had traded places instead. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and while the story seems awfully familiar at times, sometimes, it’s just nice to see a tale executed well, without taking itself more seriously than needed.

Chris Mancini’s story about Rick, a small-time crook who accidentally inherits the mantle of one of the Kung Fu Dragon Masters, should seem pretty familiar to fans of that particular trope. It has elements of The Karate Kid, Double Dragon, 3 Ninjas, and Big Trouble in Little China, with a Rocky-esque montage or two thrown in for good measure. That is to say that Mancini leans in pretty heavily on those tropes, unapologetically embracing the ‘80s-ness of it all. There’s something to be said about the seemingly timeless appeal of these stories, where we end up rooting for the underdog. Heck, even the way romance is heavily hinted at bears much of the fingerprints of its predecessors. Mancini does update some of these tropes by giving us a very much self-possessed female protagonist that isn’t a default love interest and damsel-in-distress; she’s confident, brash, competent, and, most of all, immune to leading man BS.

The artwork by Fernando Pinto is pretty fantastic, with strong character designs that have distinctive silhouettes and hearken to early Virtua Fighter days. The linework is nice and clean, with some awesome fluid fight scenes and expressive character work. Pinto’s colorwork works harmoniously with his linework and – in a way that my brain cannot explain – it seems to heighten the camp of the ‘80s kung fu flick vibe. The letters by Troy Peteri and Dave Lanphear are pretty effective at conveying the mood and vibe of this book. The bold and brash sound effects accentuate the campiness while the general proceedings are also kept nice and clear with thoughtful placements and design.

Overall, while this is not going to check the originality box by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a damn fun ride for anyone wanting a good dash of martial arts movie nostalgia. Not as violent as Kill Bill, but with that same pulpy feel.

Creative Team: Chris Mancini (writer), Fernando Pinto (artist), Troy Peteri and Dave Lanphear (letterers)
Publisher: White Cat Entertainment
Click here to purchase.

Wenxian Tan, Fanbase Press Contributor



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