Tony hears the sound of thunder.
Now that’s more like it.
The first two issues of Kung Fu Panda were something of a disappointment – a single-issue story spread across an issue and a half with a lot of very noticeable padding, and a short that was significantly better for its brevity. In issue #3, the zen art of panel-balancing has been achieved and the one-shot story Daze of Thunder feels like it has everything you expect of a Kung Fu Panda story – Furious Five action, a Big Bad with special powers, a journey of discovery for Po, some ass-kicking Panda action and a big bowl of noodles.
This time out, writer Simon Furman has paced his story well, so the arrival of a visiting dignitary inspires Mr Ping to set his Panda son and technical Dragon Warrior to the task of repairing and refurbishing his noodle shop and home. It becomes clear pretty quickly that this will only lead to Mr Ping no longer having a noodle shop or home, so Po’s despatched to the temple for a great training sequence – indeed, one that earns him his first unpasteurised, unqualified noncommittal grunt from Master Shifu. Po seeks enlightenment from his Master about whether to go along with his father’s skinflint repair budget, or to insist the job be done properly, and, told that there are times to stick with one’s own instincts, but that this is not one of those times, he and Mr Ping arrive on a compromise. Quick fixes now, proper repair work once the dignitary’s gone on his way, spreading the word of Ping’s Noodle Shop all over China.
As it turns out though, the dignitary, Chairman Qing, has plans of his own, beyond sampling a bowlful of Mr Ping’s kickass, as-approved-by-Dragon-Warrior noodles. It’s also by no means his first time in the Valley. As with the Sith, there is always a master and an apprentice, so, clearly, with Big Bads in the world of Kung Fu Panda, there is always…erm…a bird, and his big grumpy ‘just-really-in-it-for-the-mindless-destruction’ gorilla. The gorilla is an interesting new development, because it turns out it’s not just Po the Dragon Warrior who has his natural skills enhanced by some kind of prophetic magical flim-flammery. Oh no, Lei Kung (one can only imagine, given enough freedom, he would become King Kung), has been super-duperly enhanced too. He’s a walking, talking, clobbering embodiment of negative energy, and he has a range of cool super-villain powers. After all, you don’t get nicknamed The Thunderer for nothing. When the Furious Five go into battle against The Thunderer, the result is a tiny bit predictable, their defeat humiliating and total (sorry – as I say, it’s barely even a spoiler, it’s practically written into the narrative construct of the Kung Fu Panda playbook – and their regular defeat does make a degree of sense of why they’re always so furious). When even Master Shifu can’t withstand the thunder though, it’s time to allow yourself a moment of obligatory not-really-but-let’s-pretend panic at the coming of the age of darkness.
Annnnd then he takes on Po. At home, no less. As usual, it’s Po’s combination of his Dragon Warrior Kung Fu skills and his natural, ultimate Po’ness that help him in his battle, giving a finale that feels true to the spirit of the movies. In particular, let’s nor our heads and give an approving, Master Shifu-style grunt to the artwork from Zak Simmonds-Hurn and the colourwork from Tracy Bailey – it’s particularly difficult in the comic-book form to capture what animators can about a particular vocal performance. Arguably, indeed logically, you need to be able to register the vocal shifts from moment to moment to be able to do that. But here, Simmonds-Hurn and Bailey do a splendid job of rendering Jack Black into Po, his ‘If you want me, come and get me’ challenge positively dripping with the actor’s voice and facial expression, the beckoning Panda-paw a thing you can absolutely imagine from the full-on Black-voiced big screen version.
So all in all, Kung Fu Panda #3 is the Kung Fu Panda comic-book you’ve been waiting three issues for – the humour, the life-lessons, the interestingly powerful Big Bad, the well-meaning but defeated Furious Five and the big showdown between a Panda and his thunder-bringing gorilla-faced nemesis. If you have yet to get on board the Kung Fu Panda bus in the comic-book world, we can now confirm you can actually skip the first two issues and jump on right here – it’s the first issue that this movie franchise should have had all along.
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
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