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MONKEY PRINCE #1 [Review]

MONKEY PRINCE #1/ Story by GENE LUEN YANG/ Art by BERNARD CHANG/ Color Art by SEBASTIAN CHENG/ Letters by JANICE CHIANG/ Published by DC COMICS

Marcus Sun is not like most young men his age. His adoptive parents are career criminals, but also scientists, moving from city to city wherever there’s a supervillain in need of a smarter brand of minion. This is why Marcus has always had trouble making friends, as he never gets the chance to settle anywhere long. It’s also why he has an anxiety disorder, thanks to an encounter with Batman that left him with a fear of bats and a loathing of superheroes.

Marcus is also different because there is something inside him. Something stronger. Something faster. Something tied to his birth father. Something that is about to break free…

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The stories of the Monkey King Sun Wukong are largely unknown in Western culture, but have been heavily modified for the world of comics and animation before. Dragon Ball‘s protagonist Son Goku is based on the classic hero. The character also appears in RWBY and the Kung Fu Panda animated series. Now, DC Comics is putting a spin on the story with Monkey Prince.

Gene Leun Yang’s script draws equally upon Journey to the West and classic superhero tropes. Marcus is quickly established as a sympathetic proxy for the reader in the same mold as Peter Parker and Percy Jackson, being an unathletic nerd who is bullied even before he begins manifesting strange clouds and grows a tail. This foreshadows the reveal that he is the son of the Monkey King and privy to fantastic powers. Unfortunately, his first effort at using those powers against his bullies brings unwanted attention…

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The artwork is as engaging as the concept. Bernard Chang’s artwork is excellent, as always, but the most noteworthy aspect of the finished art is his designs. He created a truly monstrous Batman who is recognizable as the Dark Knight yet also subtly sinister, as befits Marcus’ view of him. Teamed with the colors of Sebastian Cheng, the finished art splash-pages evoke the feeling of a classic Chinese art print, while still following the conventions of Western comics.

The Monkey Prince is an interesting addition to the DC Comics universe. This first issue is, likewise, a fantastic introduction to one of the most refreshingly originally yet oddly timeless concepts I’ve seen in some time. Highly recommended.

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