Let me put two things on the table: Monkey King vol. 2 is one of the most beautiful comics I have laid eyes on. I have next to no idea what was happening for the better part of the book.
One of the problems I have always had with manga is that there really is only one entry point: the first volume. After that, the story lines become so complex and the relationships between the characters so convoluted that my eyes roll back in my head and my brains start to leak from my ears. Seriously. Anyone trying to read Ranma 1/2 vol. 2 (or volume 22!) without having read the first volume would be hopelessly lost.
You might be asking yourself why, if I was going to review the second volume of Katsuya Terada’s Monkey King, I did not go back and pick up the first volume? The answer is simple. Money. At the time I heard about the book, the first volume was out of print and going for well over $100 on Amazon. Since then, a new edition has been released going for a much more reasonable price. Do yourself a favor and get volume 1 first!
The Monkey King is one of the great Chinese folk tales. He is a mythical creature who can transform in to many shaped (but has trouble with becoming human because he can never lose his tail), he can life a 450 kg mystical staff, and can summersault thousands of km in a single roll. He is the consumate superhero. In Terada’s book the powers of the Monkey King have been toned down a bit, but they are still impressive.
From what I gathered in the book, the Monkey King is taking a monk, housed in a naked woman’s body to the Western Lands. What he intends to do with the monk once he gets there is kind of up in the air. But apparently this monk is pretty desirable (not because she is naked, but because she has great power) so the Monkey King is constantly forced to either rescue her or fight to protect her.
That is the general format of the book. Each chapter is a more or less self-contained episode where the Monkey King is forced to fight some creature/being ho wants the monk.
And there are boobs. Lots of them.
Apparently the only way to contain the power of the monk is to bind and gag her host naked and put her on display for the word to see. Which brings us to the art.
Terada’s art is gorgeous (not just the naked women). His characters are fluid and dynamic. Hours could be spent pouring over a single page, sucking in the details. The world of the Monkey King is an ever-shifting landscape that looks like it belongs in a Moebeus painting. There are great cliffs, vast deserts, and towering structures which defy the elements. It is the kind of world where magic comes alive.
That is the reason why I enjoyed the book so much. Even thought I was missing out on the particulars of WHY the Monkey King was transporting a bound naked monk across a wasteland and WHY the Monkey King hates the Buddha so much and WHY everyone seems to want the MONK so badly and WHY there is a demon and pig following the Monkey King from place to place, each chapter was so beautiful I was swept along with the story, not really caring too much.
The Monkey King (vol. 2) is out tomorrow in comic shops. Be sure to take a look at it and the amazing art. But, before you buy it, ask if they have volume 1 available as well. Because, if the full story is even half as good as the art, then this is going to be something special!
Check out a 6 page preview here.