West Legends #1 & #2
Written by: Alan Bay
Art by: Alan Bay
Published by: Smallguydoodle

Sun Wukong, AKA The Monkey King, is a legendary hero in Chinese literature. The Chinese have been reading his stories since the 16th Century and, in modern times, has been adapted into comic books, television shows, and many films starring some Hong Kong greats like Donnie Yen (Rogue One, Ip Man), Jet Li (The One, War), Aaron Kwok (Cold War 1 and 2), and Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle). If you follow Hong Kong cinema you may be familiar with the story of The Monkey King but I would venture a guess that most in the West have no clue about the legend of Sun Wukong. Hell – most of the kids on Twitter don’t even know who Paul McCartney is.

Writer/Artist Alan Bay has decided to tackle the Monkey King in his new book West Legends which currently has two issues available. The story behind the comic is just as interesting as the comic itself. It seems that Bay designed the characters for a mobile app game that launched in 2013. Bay kept the rights to the characters he designed so he decided to write and draw the adventures of Sun Wukong (along with Master Tang Xuan Zhang who freed Sun after being trapped for 500 years) in a comic book.

West Legends tells the story of the Monkey King from his “birth” to his run-ins with emperors, deities, fairies, and ordinary humans. The comic can seem a bit light on the story and suddenly shift into a ton of exposition. Ordinarily I would say that this would cause a bit of an uneven story. If you are very familiar with Sun Wukong you may find that it does feels this way. But for comic readers like myself who have no knowledge of the Monkey King, West Legends does an amazing job of telling the story of this tricky monkey and the adversaries he runs into.

Having never read the original book Journey to the West it is hard to say how West Legends works as an adaptation of the classic novel. It does seem that The Monkey King is always ready to fight. He’s always ready to prove how tough he is and has no fear. He’ll throw himself into many fights in these two books while never worrying if he is going to lose.  This may be part of the reason that the character has remained so interesting over several hundred years.

I adore Alan Bay’s art style. It is big, broad, cartooney, and colorful. The colors on this book are simply amazing and may even be the highlight of both of these issues. The coloring is really that astonishing.  The look of this book makes the read so much fun.

The story itself is okay and I think Bay is doing a decent job telling Sun Wukong’s story. It actually makes me want to search out some films on the character to see how the character is interpreted in other mediums.  Ultimately I did have fun reading both issues and do look forward to where Bay will take The Monkey King in subsequent issues. West Legends is a ton of fun with the amazing artwork and vivid colors coming together splendidly. It is very much worth seeking out.

RANK: B+

You can find West Legends at Alan Bay’s site: http://www.smallguydoodle.com.

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