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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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‘Crouching Tiger’ graphic novels provide important insight

The movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” hardly needs an introduction. One of the most popular and critically lauded films of 2000, it took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and made director Ang Lee a household name.

A sweeping tale of doomed love interlaced with some of the most magnificent martial arts sequences ever filmed, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was based on the fourth novel of a five-part series by Chinese author Wang Du Lu entitled “The Crane-Iron Pentalogy.”

Rumors persist that Ang Lee is going to adapt a prequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” upon completion of this summer’s “The Hulk.” While this is exciting enough news, until that distant date fans of the movie have a new bone to chew on: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” graphic novels.

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ComicsOne corporation, a large publisher of Kung Fu comics, has just begun American releases of its own series of graphic novels based on “The Crane-Iron Pentalogy.” Andy Seto, a veteran manga writer from China, is the author/illustrator of the series.

The first book, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon #1,” begins with events that take place in the second book of the original pentalogy. Seto decided to begin with the second book because it contains the story of how Li (Chow Yun-Fat in in the film) and Yu (Michelle Yeoh) originally met.

Eventually in his narrative, Seto plans to backtrack and cover events from the first book, which mainly concern Jen and Lo — the princess and the bandit from the movie. But before this gets too confusing, here is the basic story of “CTHD #1:”

After a blazing rendition of the theft of the Green Destiny Sword, the book takes readers to the Hebei province of China. In this realm of martial artists, Yu lives with her mother and father, an aging kung fu warrior.

When a spring festival for visiting ancestral graves arrives, the family sets out for the cemetery. Along the way, they are attacked by rivals bent on revenge and some rapid-fire kung fu ensues.

Fast-forward to the Li storyline. Li is just finishing his studies of Wudan, a method of kung fu based on mental manipulation. Just before he sets off in search of employment, a close friend tells him about Yu. Supposedly, Yu’s father declared that anyone who could defeat Yu in battle could take her for a wife.

Intrigued, Li seeks out the Yu household and meets her for the first time. They duel, of course, but an important revelation is unleashed and the end result is unexpected.

The first book ends shortly thereafter, and the second book of the series picks up right where it left off with the Li-Yu storyline. The third book is coming soon.

Seto’s graphic novels are visually stunning, following the example of the movie. His vivid and colorful illustrations are a blend of anime and Western comics. The kung-fu sequences practically leap off the page and are full of excitement and vigor.

The story is good and of special interest to fans of the movie. The actual “Crane-Iron Pentalogy” is hard to come by in the United States, so these graphic novels offer welcome background information on the film’s main characters.

The only problem lies with the English translation, which is dubbed in the same awkward, lifeless spirit of most kung fu movies. Of course, this can also be entertaining in its own right.

If nothing else, these graphic novels will make you want to watch the movie again and leave you eagerly anticipating Ang Lee’s planned prequel. They are a lot of fun and a great escape for a cold winter’s night.

Grade: A/B

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