If you like fighting and martial arts, this is the book for you. It’s crammed with men, women and even children kicking and punching their way through a weak plot, clearly designed to do little beyond providing links between violent encounters.
The story is rather simple. A young man (called Hero, no less) has a family heirloom in his possession – a magical sword that becomes increasingly powerful when charged with an enemy’s blood. A local Triad warlord wants the sword for himself, so commissions a small army of top assassins to get it back. Hero is hampered by having to look after his wife and children, some of whom don’t survive the assassins’ relentless attacks, but he does have a number of friends who owe him favours to help him in the battle. Most of the back story is covered off in a few introductory pages, so the story doesn’t impede on the fighting.
The action is relentless, with scores of characters popping in, using special martial arts moves on one another before moving on to the next battle. Multiple threads weave in and out as we follow them around, but it’s the number of characters that add any complexity to the story, rather than their depth or their non-violent actions.
The artwork is mixed – some panels have a painted look to them, especially as new characters are introduced or some particular detailed emotion needs to be conveyed. Others have more of a traditional comic look to them, more of a pen and ink style that’s been coloured afterwards, particularly where there’s a lot of action to illustrate.
Anyone looking for 270-odd pages of intense fighting is going to get a lot of kicks out of this first volume in the Chinese Hero series, though it’s a bit disappointing that the story arc, for what it’s worth, isn’t contained, and you’ll have to wait for the next volume (at least) before the result of the cliff-hanger of a final battle is resolved. But if martial arts are your thing and you’re in the camp that believes a plot is just something you hang a series of epic fights off, then Chinese Hero certainly punches its weight.