Review: ‘Adventures from China: MONKEY KING’


The first thing to know about the Monkey King is that he is not exactly a hero. He is and he isn’t. He’s not exactly likable either. Basically, he represents just about everything you should not do if you were in a position of power. And he is quite literally willing to do anything to keep himself amused and one step ahead of any authority that would dare stop him. How did this Monkey King become such a stinker? Well, that’s quite a story. In fact, it’s pretty involved, part of a set of stories, based upon a work from 16th century China, Wu Cheng’en’s “Journey to the West.” Thanks to JR Comics, these stories can now be shared as high-quality comics with a Western audience.


Talk about being transported to another world, the Monkey King series will totally satisfy your need for something different. It is the grand plan of Korean publisher JR Han, President and CEO of JR Comics, to introduce a young Western audience to ancient Chinese legends published as action-packed graphic novels. As the Monkey King series demonstrates, here are comics that can appeal to young Western readers reared on Batman and the X-Men. These are stories with their own distinctive quirky point of view, every bit as compelling as Star Wars or Game of Thrones. Part of a collection of various tales, the Monkey King, quite popular with Asians all over the world, is sure to enchant Western readers of all ages.

In an idyllic setting, long ago, a stone monkey was born. Yes, it’s an odd start but not any stranger than just about any superhero’s origin. What’s refreshing about this tale is how odd it is without ever stumbling upon its own grandiosity. This is coming from a source so far removed from comics that it’s fascinating to see how naturally it makes its home on the comics page. The whole story strikes me with its vivid originality. There are no false notes. This definitely does not read like a spec script. We’re dealing with something that originally never had to deal with marketing and has no intrinsic comics baggage.


Wei Dong Chen’s script, and faithful illustration by Chao Peng, oversee the process of transforming great legend into comics with a masterful vision. I think it comes down to not getting self-conscious about what you’re doing, allowing the characters to come to life, and remaining zoned into the story. What results is an immersive experience with a built-in contemporary vibe. If the process is organic and authentic, then you get a relatable Monkey King. The Monkey King is hip but not in a distracting way. The problem that Monkey King simply cannot overcome is himself. He proves to be the perfect foil for other would-be heroes.

At some point, the Monkey King is supposed to wise up enough to attempt to atone for his sins. He, along with a pig creature and a sea demon, are destined to go on a very important journey of transformation with San Zang, a young monk. This initial first look at Monkey King is part of a twenty-issue series. This is a story told in an fast-paced and animated style that is hard to stop once you start.

Visit our friends at JR Comics right here. And you can find “Monkey King, Volume One: Birth of the Stone Monkey” at Amazon right here.


Filed under China, Chinese Comics, Comics

2 responses to “Review: ‘Adventures from China: MONKEY KING’

  1. Ok, this is one I am going to actively seek out, as I am a huge fan of the tv program, “Monkey”, as are my children.

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