Wing Shing Ma, Author, Wing Shing Ma, Author . ComicsOne $11.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-58899-142-3

Supposedly set in ancient China, this Hong Kong manga actually deals with experience only tangentially related to this world. In the comic's world, it isn't the Royal Government that controls humanity, but the World Fighting Association, so the only thing that matters in life is martial arts supremacy. When two kung fu masters meet, they immediately begin a wild battle to the death, even though the story points out they're acting insanely, perhaps urged on by their magic swords. Watching this battle are the minions of Lord Conquer, a mighty kung fu master who is plotting to take over the world but unexpectedly takes the two fighters as his pupils because he admires their spirit. This summary makes the action sound more reasonable than it actually is. Nevertheless, a sensational movie was based on the comic, which is 87 volumes long. The comic's popularity may just be the art; like most Hong Kong martial arts comics, the art is detailed, dramatic and hyperkinetically active. Much like the best martial arts movies, the art uses familiar objects merely as the starting point in its design. The combat scenes are phantasmagoric, swirling ballets. Ma shatters and reshapes landscapes and human faces for dramatic effect and uses nature as raw material for visual experimentation. In one scene, wind-tattered waves from a flooding river are frozen in space, as motionless and solid as the human body tumbling toward them and as luminous as the magic sword hanging in the air. Ma's universe is strange, wonderful and fantastic. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/10/2003
Release date: 04/01/2005
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