February 9, 2018

The Monkey God by Wu Cheng'en - Graphic Adaptation Illustrated by Jian Yi

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, we'll be reviewing an adaptation of Journey to the West. This story is considered to be one of the Four Great Classical Novels from Chinese literature. Written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty. Predating even the fairy tales by the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault, Journey to the West has maintained its popularity throughout the years in East Asia. This novel originated from true events. Xuanzang, a Chinese Buddhist monk traveled to India in the 6th century to obtain Buddhist sutras. His trek lasted seventeen years, during which time he documented in detail his exotic travels. It is from these recordings that inspired the novel Xiyouji or Journey to the West.

From fact to fiction, the novel sensationalizes these recordings by adding elements of fantasy. In it, Xuanzang is accompanied by three protectors on his epic quest: Zhu Bajie, Sha Wujing and the anti-hero Sun Wukong. Sun Wukong is commonly known in English as the Monkey King. Sun Wukong is a clever and powerful deity whose personal quest is to seek immortality. This adapted version by Jean David Morvan, Yann Le Gal and illustrated by Jian Yi titled, The Monkey God is a graphic novel. This is a small book with three parts and I took a break from reading at each chapter. The font was small and it took longer to read than expected. The text reads like a script and the pictures like a camera, it feels like I was watching a Hong Kong fantasy movie, only better. There's a lot of action, a lot of martial arts and a lot of magic. All the main Chinese gods and immortals appear in this story. The Buddha makes a cameo while Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy makes several appearances to guide and aid the travelers. There is violence and killings of shape-shifting demons by the hands of Wukong so it is not a story for the youngest of readers.

Jian Yi did a fantastic job with the art. The action is drawn in many different angles and perspectives throughout, making the pages very exciting to look at. His style isn't too manga like. Both the inking and colouring is in excellent detail. Because the illustrations are so good, some of the action sequences don't even require any text. The drawn landscape, architecture and costumes of ancient China are beautifully depicted.

The Monkey God is #12 in the Classics Illustrated Deluxe series from Papercutz. This gem of a book is packed with action as our heroes venture on the path towards enlightenment and redemption. It is an exciting introduction to some of the most revered mythological characters in Chinese literature. Recommended for ages 9+.

Amazon | Book Depository
Papercutz 2014
Hardcover 152p
6.6" x 9.1"
The Monkey God CoverThe Monkey God spread 1The Monkey God spread 2The Monkey God spread 3

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