There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we’re taking a journey to the west with “Monkey Prince,” as Gene Luen Yang turns the son of Sun Wukong into DC’s latest hero.
Who Is This By?
“Monkey Prince” is written by Gene Luen Yang, creator of comics like “American Born Chinese,” “Boxers & Saints,” and “Dragon Hoops.” You may also know him for his work on Dark Horse’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” comics. In DC Comics, you might be familiar with his work creating “New Super-Man,” as well as his work on “Superman Smashes the Klan.” At Marvel, he’s currently the go-to writer for all things “Shang-Chi.”
It’s illustrated by Bernard Chang, who has years of experience writing for DC, Marvel, and Valiant Comics. You might know him for his work on “Batman Beyond,” “Demon Knights,” and “Teen Titans” for DC Comics, as well as several issues of “Cable” and “New Mutants: Truth or Death” for Marvel.
Marcelo Maiolo providers the color work, having previously done the colors for “Demon Knights,” “I, Vampire,” and “Teen Titans,” to name a few DC Comics. On the Marvel side, he’s been a colorist for several issues of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Old Man Logan,” and “Children of the Atom,” and many more.
What’s It All About?
The Monkey King, Sun Wukong, is a legendary hero from the Chinese epic “Journey to the West.” He’s inspired countless stories and heroes, including even “Dragon Ball’s” Goku. He’s known for his incredible speed, strength, immortality, and 72 Earthly Transformations skills.
This is not about him. It’s about his son, Marcus.
And when we meet Marcus, he is no kind of hero. The child of two scientists who work for super-villains, he’s a teen traumatized by a childhood “visit” from Batman and has trouble fitting in at school.
Then the school janitor (who is also actually Pigsy from “Journey to the West”) reveals that he has super powers, and is actually the son of Sun Wukong. Oh, and demonic beings from Chinese mythology are being released into our world, so he has to master his powers and stop them. Of course, he’ll have to overcome his traumas first, and there’s a lot of those to go around.
What Makes It So Great?
There’s a lot that makes “Monkey Prince” great, whether we’re talking about the story or the art.
For starters, Marcus is not your typical hero. He’s not brave, he’s not filled with heroic aspirations, heck, there’s a lot to not like about him. And that’s great, because it means that he has a ton of room to develop! And develop he does, as he learns about his powers, struggles with his fears, makes mistakes (so many mistakes) and slowly grows into the hero he’s meant to be. Flawed characters are the best kinds of characters to follow, because we get to see them improve over time.
It also helps that Gene Luen Yang both builds a cast of supporting characters and ties Marcus/Monkey Prince in to the DC universe by connecting his story to other heroes. The Batman-induced trauma? Oh, that certainly comes up. And this new arc brings him to Amnesty Bay, home of Aquaman. The fact that his parents are basically “mad scientists for hire” makes it all fit naturally, because of course their work takes them where the superheroes (and villains) are.
(And look, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of Gene’s work. Between “New Super-Man” and “Shang-Chi,” he’s written some of my favorite comics for both of the big two publishers.)
Of course, the artwork is incredibly solid as well. Bernard Chang’s art, combined with Marcelo Maiolo’s artwork, makes for incredibly clean imagery. The character designs are all solid, linework is clean, and the detailing helps the imagery pop nicely. And when demonic forces begin popping up, they look just as intimidating as they need to be while drawing on imagery from Chinese mythology.
Marcelo’s colors suit each scene nicely, adding brightness and life to each page while helping accentuate the details. The cloud-riding scenes, for instance, make great use of the bright colors to add to the joy of flying above the skyline. But when the tone needs to shift, so does the designs and color work, which is especially useful for the dark scenes exploring Gotham City at night (and its sewer system).Continued below
“Monkey Prince” also draws on Chinese myth and legend to a great extent for the story and designs. It cleverly ties in to “Journey to the West” by making a parallel between the monk Tripitaka (AKA Sanzang/Xuanzang) and DC’s pantheon of heroes by having demons hunt them for their qi, and even connects the stories by mentioning that the Monkey King is currently in the Phantom Zone.
No matter how you slice it (and Monkey Prince does get sliced a fair bit, mostly by batarangs) there’s a lot to love about “Monkey Prince.”
How Can You Read It?
You can find issues 1-5 of “Monkey Prince” in stores and online, with issue 5 hitting stores today. Look for it online on the DC Comics website or on Comixology, or at your friendly local comic shop. The first trade paperback is set to release in January 2023, so you’ll have to find individual issues for now.
But it’s worth it.