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Storm Riders Vol.1
Graphic Novel
128 Pages
Wing Shing Ma
Jonesky Limited
Beautiful artwork combined with a slow-paced introduction to what will most likely be a wonderful story...once it finally gets going.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Storm Riders Vol.1
By Patrick King

This is somewhat of a confusing release from ComicsOne, since it's not really manga.

"Not really manga?" you ask. "Then why the heck is it on my beloved Animefringe?" Well, you see, this is actually an English translation of a Hong Kong comic book series that was released in China in the summer of 1989. Since we like to cover works that might appeal to fans of Japanese comics, and since the folks at ComicsOne were kind enough to localize this, we decided to take a look at it.

The first thing you might notice - aside from the slightly larger than average size - is the book's eye-catching cover art. In fact, the artwork in this comic is beautiful. The standout chapter in this release is the "enhanced" first chapter, retouched in 2001. Some of the imagery used in this introduction to the main story is breathtaking. The colors are vivid and the lines are sharp, impressively displaying the artist's obvious talent.

However, beyond the "enhanced" material, the 12-year gap between drawing the original book and the new first chapter is rather apparent. Readers will be able to tell when the comic's creator used a computer to aid with shading and coloring, though the book's introduction warns us of that fact. As the story progresses, Wing Shing Ma's admirable attention to detail shines through just as much as it did in the book's beginning, but the colors are noticeably muted, lending the work a pastel look. There are a few panels that have either been re-colored or had more attention paid to them that serve to emphasize certain scenes in the story. Overall, I enjoyed the artwork very much. The style fit the tale's theme extremely well.

It was the actual story progression of the book that knocked a few points off the score above. I'm a huge fan of Kung Fu movies - especially in their original language. This graphic novel's inside flap kindly informs us that "Storm Riders is the first Hong Kong comic to use Kung Fu and movie techniques in a comic production." So, what does this mean? When characters are fighting (and they spend a considerable amount of their time fighting) narration explains exactly what technique is being used and why. This is really neat if you like Kung Fu and the philosophy behind it. However, if you don't...well, you don't have to read the narration.

And this brings me to my main gripe...the narration. It seems as if every single panel has a bit of narration for us to read. It's almost like reading a novel and seeing each sentence illustrated. This translation incorporates a large vocabulary, but much of the dialogue comes off sounding a bit stilted - even for martial arts masters. The plodding dialogue takes what would be an interesting story and slows it down, summoning a Monty Python scene where a group of people shouts "GET ON WITH IT" following every other panel.

Essentially, volume one tells the story of two young boys - Wind (Nie-Fong) and Cloud (Bu-Jing-Yin) - both sons of rival Kung Fu masters. They meet when their fathers - Master Nie and Master Duan, respectively - seek each other out for a fight to the death to see which master is more powerful. The two boys don't realize what their fathers are up to, however, and so a friendship begins to form between them. Yet what began as a simple honest fight to the death between their fathers turns into something far more complex, and fate decides to separate Wind and Cloud from their fathers. That's where Conquer (no, not the raunchy squirrel) enters the picture. Conquer is a power-hungry master set on gaining control of the World Fighting Association, and it seems that Wind and Cloud may help him reach his goal, whether they want to or not...

I haven't read this series before, so I'm not quite sure where the plot is headed, but there is a handy list of characters at the front of the book that suggests that this part of the tale is but the beginning of something far larger. It seems like we're seeing the childhood events of two main characters before they grow up. Despite my lack of excitement over this volume, I'm still looking forward to what may come down the line. Potentially, this could be a very deep, interesting epic. Until volume two is released, however, we'll just have to hope for the best.

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