THIS WEEK: Happy Lunar New Year! Celebrate the occasion as the newest breakout superhero of the DC Universe gets his own series with the billion-dollar debut of Monkey Prince!
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Monkey Prince #1
Writer: Gene Luen Yang 楊謹倫
Artist: Bernard Chang 張伯納
Colorist: Sebastian Cheng 鍾偉傑
Letterer: Janice Chiang 蒋慧珍
Cover Artists: Bernard Chang 張伯納 & Sebastian Cheng 鍾偉傑
After a first appearance team-up with Shazam in last year’s DC Festival of Heroes one-shot, Monkey Prince’s solo-starring miniseries kicks off this week. Rather than pick up where his previous appearance left off, Monkey Prince #1 takes it back to the character’s origin as readers learn how young Marcus Shugel-Shen discovers his heritage and becomes a superhero.
I feel a little like praising the skill of writer Gene Luen Yang is unnecessary at this point. He’s a Printz Award winner, a National Book Award winner, an Eisner winner, and a MacArthur Fellow. All of that talent is on display in this book, as Yang introduces young Marcus and makes him instantly relatable to readers. Tying Monkey Prince’s origin to Batman, however loosely, is a brilliant way to give the character some appeal to longtime readers, and Yang conveys the terror Marcus feels at encountering the Dark Knight, and how that feeling lingers with him for years to follow. For readers like myself who are unfamiliar with The Monkey King legend on which Monkey Prince is based, those elements are introduced interestingly and accessibly as well, and I’m excited to learn more about that story and how it ties to Marcus’s journey.
Along with the Monkey King ties, there are some pretty iconic superhero tropes at play in Monkey Prince’s origin as well. Marcus is a young man who has to overcome his fear in order to discover his true power. A traumatic experience when he’s young leaves Marcus forever changed in the form of regular panic attacks. A mysterious mentor appears and helps guide him on his journey, and one of the first things he does upon becoming Monkey Prince is to get revenge on the bullies who’ve been picking on him at school. It’s familiar territory in a lot of way, but it’s familiar because it works, and Yang puts a unique spin on things along the way that keeps the reading experience fresh and entertaining.
Artists Bernard Chang and Sebastian Cheng bring the story to life with an abundance of visual flair. Chang’s linework is expressive and energetic, embodying Marcus’s varied emotions throughout the issue, from fear to delight, beautifully. His page layouts also go a long way toward building tension, representing Marcus’s feelings, and keeping readers on their toes, especially during the multi-page sequence in which Marcus discovers his true parentage. Cheng’s coloring is equally impressive, in particular during the aforementioned multi-page scene, adding a dream-like quality to the sequence that’s feels crucial to the storytelling. Janice Chiang’s lettering rounds out the book’s visuals expertly, from subtle representation of Marcus’s panic attacks through dialogue to sound effects that enhance the issue’s action without overpowering it.
There couldn’t be a better start to a series featuring a brand-new character than Monkey Prince #1. Yang, Chang, and team have brought their very best to an issue that’s sure to grab new readers’ attention, and the final page cliffhanger has me itching to read the next issue. I’m very excited to see this creative team continue to develop Monkey Prince over the next dozen issues.
Final Verdict: BUY. And if you’re on the fence, you can check out a free Monkey Prince story right now on DC Universe Infinite.
- Joshua Williamson and Jorge Molina‘s globe-trotting Batman, Inc. adventure continues in Batman #120, here aided by Mikel Janín, Adriano Di Benedetto, Tomeu Morey, and John Rauch. The mystery around The Abyss deepens here in a surprising way, and Lex Luthor is such a wonderful foil for Batman, it’s a shame he wastes all of his time over in Metropolis. Plus, Karl Kerschl‘s Maps Mizoguchi-starring back-up story is an utter delight.
- Justice League Incarnate #4, also from Williamson with co-writer Dennis Culver and a team of artists including Chris Burnham, Andrei Bressan, Mike Norton, and Hi-Fi, covers a lot of ground in its 28 pages, with a recontextualization of the entire history of the DC Universe and an epic battle between the titular team, Darkseid, and The Empty Hand. Big summer blockbuster stuff, and in the middle of winter!
- Mark Russell, Steve Lieber, and Dave Stewart‘s One-Star Squadron #3 also continues to be just a joy to read, even if some of the corporate politics and procedures hit a little close to home for someone who’s worked in an office for, well, too long.
- Suicide Squad #12 from Dennis Hopeless, Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Dexter Soy, Julio Ferreira, and Marcelo Maiolo does a nice job bringing things to a head that have been brewing since the series’s first issue, and setting the stage for next month’s War on Earth-3, a storyline I’m actually pretty hyped to read. Needed more Ambush Bug, though, but you can’t have everything I suppose.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!