Titan Comics: Kung Fu Panda #2 Review

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Tony’s just a Po boy from a Po family.

After the somnambulistic start to the Kung Fu Panda comic-book, issue #2 sees a resolution to the case of the Mist of Morpheus, the crocodile plot to put everyone to sleep and go about their nefarious evildoing. As we predicted last time, after what was a slow start that saw the energy drain out of panels in which practically nothing happened while various members of the Furious Five falll gradually to sleep (taking the reader with them), this issue has more of the action and more of the attitude we associate with the Jack Black-voiced warrior panda of the movies, and a second, short, story that follows on directly and takes one of the oldest plotlines in the world – our hero wants to go to sleep, and is continually woken up (British comedian Tony Hancock used the same plot for an episode of his radio show as far back as 1958) – out for a brand new spin, so let’s say at once that issue #2 is better than issue #1. The problem with that of course is that issue #2 makes very little sense without issue #1, so there’s still a chance that fans will feel a little hard done-by, and there’s certainly a sense that this languorous two-part story could have been a much tighter, more enjoyable single-shot.

As in issue #1 there were a lot of fairly needless panels of the Furious Five trekking into the Swamp of Disillusionment (a name that gains a certain mordant relevance in that issue), so here there are a lot of panels of what is almost action, but not quite – elements on which the plot certainly turns, and which help to defeat the croc plot, but for which, for instance, one panel would have been sufficient, rather than the best part of a page. That said, there’s more energy and more action here – Po delivering a couple of solid fight scenes against the croc leader, General Rong (see whatcha did there, Simon Furman – very cute), and one that allows the Furious Five to kick some scaly croc butt in their own highly imitable fashion. But there’s a sense that that’s all this episode of the main story is – a few fight scenes, to make up for the lack of action in issue #1. There’s also the idea put forward here that when you defeat the leader of a force, the rest of them either come quietly or simply scatter, which feels a little simplistic even for Kung Fu Panda, given that the Big Bad here isn’t that Big or that Bad.

There is an interesting piece of foreshadowing delivered in this issue though – as General Rong goes down, he hints at Bigger and Badder things on the horizon (we wonder, at that, whether these will be fulfilled entirely within the pages of the comic-book world, or whether in fact this is art as advertising – a case of advanced appetite-whetting for Kung Fu Panda 3 when it hits movie screens soon).

Furman’s writing is by no means bad in these first two issues of the Kung Fu Panda comic-book. It’s more a case that both of them feel padded, spreading a simple one-shot story across enough panels to squeeze twice the money out of Panda fans. At least here though – perhaps because you can only pad so far – there’s the second story, which actually, despite its relatively throwaway positioning, has more of a feel of the original Kung Fu Panda about it, focusing on Po’s simple quest to sleep for a day, and how such simple but materialistic desires are at odds with his role as the Dragon Warrior. Whether it be training with Tigress, bouncing bandits, or climbing for kites stuck in trees, the village knows it has a Dragon Warrior on hand to help out with its woes, and in the words of another much put-upon hero, with great power comes great responsibility, meaning our panda pal can’t catch either a break or a nap. As stories go, it feels more in the style of Kung Fu Panda, mostly because it doesn’t overstay its welcome and doesn’t feel over-padded, the action progressing from one disturbance to another.

The artwork by Lee Robinson is pretty evocative of the movies in both stories, though early in the issue there’s a curious lack of communication of the movement in scenes – some of Po’s early kung fu moves feel like they should work, but somehow don’t on the page, and there’s almost a page where the action is left to be communicated in unlettered art, which can work, but doesn’t here – quite. Nearly, but not quite, probably because it needs more of a reaction shot from Tigress to sell the piece than we get. There’s at least one beautiful piece though – the projectile panda move, where the sense of impending action and chaos works perfectly in Robinson’s depiction. It’s artwork that makes you grin and hold your breath for the moment of impact.

Overall, issue #2 of Kung Fu Panda is better than issue #1, but still feels like a series struggling to find its paws – probably because of the sense of being a one-shot extended over an issue and a half through the medium of unnecessary padding.

One to recommend then? Not really – the good thing about which is that nothing in these first two issues re-writes the world of Kung Fu Panda, meaning you can pretty much skip them and wait to see whether the series asserts its unique charms more definitively in issue #3.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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