The Bane of Heaven

978-89-94208-70-1. ea vol: illus. by Chao Peng. 176p. (Adventures from China: Monkey King Series). JR Comics. 2012. PLB $29.27.
Gr 6–9—These adaptations of traditional tales are best read as graphic-novel versions of Chinese martial-arts movies. They have abrupt flashbacks and backstory scenes that can confuse readers who are already struggling with the abundance of proper names, titles, honorifics, and alibis. In addition, the contradictory, mercurial Monkey King himself (aka Sun Wu Kong, the Emperor of Heaven) does not resemble the usual heroes of Western literature. Violent, greedy, and deceitful, yet powerful and charming, he blasts through his adventures, never considering the consequences-he's like a very powerful toddler with a great big magic staff. The translation is for the most part fluid and readable, with the Monkey King speaking in an informal style that sets him apart from other characters. Marvelous full-color art often opens up to full-page panels, the better to communicate the heroic majesty of an army, a palace, or a particularly impressive moment in a fight. Readers who hang in there with unfamiliar characters wending their way through complicated plots in order to reach the dazzling action scenes and technical feats will be richly rewarded.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

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