Myths offer an enchanting ability to engage our imaginations since time immemorial, conjuring forth and reshaping stories with extraordinary fascination. The superhero narrative exemplifies a timeless myth that never grows old, and award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Superman Versus the Klan) and Bernard Chang (Batman Beyond, Teen Titans) infuse new life into a mythology drawn from a 16th century Chinese epic (Journey to the West) in the first volume of Monkey Prince: Enter the Monkey.
When a brawl breaks out in the locker room of Gotham High School, Batman and Robin rush to the scene only to find a mischievous trickster monkey proclaiming himself as the “MotherFlippin’ Monkey Prince.” Little do they realize that this magical misfit is really high-school teenager Marcus Sun, whose foster parents harbor secrets wrapped up in their work as purported freelance scientists. After getting bullied from a classmate at school one day, Marcus runs into Mr. Zhu, a corpulent janitor with pig-like features who bestows him with supernatural powers, transforming him into a monkey-like superhero. Marcus adapts to a nearly indestructible body that can shapeshift, ride on clouds, reattach dismembered limbs in combat telepathically, and other quirks. In time, he learns that Mr. Zhu is actually the Shifu (teacher) Pigsy of the legendary Sun Wukong, a nearly omnipotent monkey king from Chinese myth and legend.
The story revolves around the ups and downs of Marcus as he undergoes a process of self-discovery after gaining his newfound powers while grappling with fear, courage, and self-discipline. Sinister forces lurk in the background—from the uprising of a demon that possesses the Penguin in Gotham City to a pink-haired, kick-ass girl with a mouthful of razor-sharp fangs in Amnesty Bay. Vibrant, stunning colors of gold, red, and green from the Monkey Prince’s outfit create a stark contrast to the shady blue of Gotham City’s noir world. Intricately drawn characters occupy action-packed panels, energizing amusingly choreographed fight scenes echoing escapades from the classic Chinese myth. Episodic side plots crisscross alongside Marcus’s coming-of-age story, unraveling a somewhat confounding and complex storyline, though still maintaining a narrative momentum that intrigues.
Ushering in a brand new superhero to the DC universe drawn from the mythos of an ancient Chinese epic, Monkey Prince highlights a reluctant yet bold superhero with a playful persona whose purpose and role remains to be seen. Flashbacks to past adventures (Monkey Prince #0) reveal an epic battle against Darkseid, so perhaps DC comics will reprint those side stories to supplement missing gaps in a future volume. A mix of mystery, magic, and fantasy blend into a storyline populated by superheroes, supernatural monsters, demons, dragon kings, and more, making this a unique addition to adult graphic novel collections for readers seeking something bordering on mythic fantasies fueled with wild antics.
Monkey Prince, vol. 1: Enter the Monkey
By Gene Luen Yang
Art by Bernard Chang
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Chinese-American
Character Representation: Chinese-American