ANIME & MANGA - Review
14:38 - 9th April 2013, by Matt Kamen

Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre 1

Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre starts with two seemingly unconnected stories. First, we enter, mid-fight, a battle between Zhune Shai and Master Kong. Shai has killed many martial artists to draw out his former master, Vigor Fist, and exact vengeance for his murder of Shai's family. After Shai's battle with Kong, we meet the 'Seven Wu-Tang Masters'. When the second brother, Di Yu, is found dead, fifth brother Jay Shan Chang sets out to find those responsible.

Kung Fu is to Chinese comics as superheroes are to American ones - the most popular genre. Despite there being room for plenty of innovation within this genre, Heaven Sword shows very little originality in its first volume. Page after page is filled with kung fu stereotypes that don't add much to the story. There is potential though - the characters aren't quite as stereotyped as the events in which they find themselves, especially Jay Shen's love interest Sue Ying, who is far from the meek maiden in need of rescue. Many of author Louis Cha's story problems could be addressed in later volumes, as book one serves almost exclusively as prologue to a larger story focusing on Jay Shan and Sue Ying's son, Wu Ji. From the blurb on the back cover, Wu Ji seems destined to become some kind of Kung Fu Jesus, a subplot that should prove interesting to see develop.

Artist Wing Shing Ma's kinetic art style certainly moves the story along at a fair pace, but his backgrounds are often empty. However, the sheer detail in the pages when backgrounds are present is staggering. The publisher's quality checking, conversely, seems staggeringly bad. Frequent spelling and grammatical errors are present that a diligent read through prior to publication would have easily caught.
Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre is an interesting, if not wholly imaginative, start to what could potentially be a great martial arts saga, if improvements are made on both the creative and production sides.

SCORE: 3/5
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