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Peril In Panels Volume XIII: Pang: Wandering Shaolin Monk

sweet new banner logo i did in like two days after designing for a month

“You may be right, Captain. But you’re wrong about one thing! It’s that drives a man to kill! Not courage!”

It’s been awhile since I could hold my head up and high and say “I wrote a Peril In Panel article.” It’s also been awhile since I read a comic like Pang: Wandering Shaolin Monk.

This article will focus on the physical version of the first volume (as opposed to the free, online version), Refuge of The Heart. I hope you’re ready for a semi-historical fantasy story full of intrigue, love and martial arts.

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Pang is written and illustrated by Ben Costa and was originally just a webcomic titled Shi Long Pang, available for free as of 2009.
It still is, though at the time of this article’s publishing the comic is on a hiatus as Costa finishes writing the final volume and also works on a cooperative comic, Rickety Stitch. But don’t let that discourage you from reading, there’s still two whole volumes online to read for free and two volumes in print. This is a Xeric Award winning comic, it is well worth your time.

Pang is an incredible example of how much proper research and historical fact-checking can help a story. Ben Costa has said in the past that he has studied both martial arts and the history of the Shaolin, which is an incredibly complex subject. That being said,
this is not a historically accurate tale. Accounts of events during this time period are,
for lack of a better term, “sketchy” to say the least. So Costa took certain aspects that are factually true and others that are unverifiable, mixed them together into his fantasy tale.

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The plot of Pang is as such: in 1675, a chubby monk, Shaolin Buddhist monk named Pang sets out find his lost brothers (not in the familial sense, in the “fellow monk sense”) as they were separated after their temple is destroyed by the Qing Dynasty. Beset on all sides by danger and now totally alone for the first time in his life in the outside world, the fate of his order rests upon Pang’s oddly circular-shaped head.

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The semi-historical adventure has a bit of everything thrown in when appropriate: from romance, to political intrigue, humour and good old fashioned martial arts fights.
Little to no narration is used in Pang, as it’s very fluid dialogue and the character’s actions are what drives the plot. As stated before, the plot, while complex, is told in an
easy-to-follow manner. There are a few drier parts (especially in this volume, since it’s the first) when the focus shifts to establishing important historical/political events and figures but personally, I never found it much of a problem, if ever. And that’s from someone who, while finding history interesting, would never, ever be considered a history buff.
As an added note, Costa also includes quick, informative little facts about various subjects pertaining to the story, such as citing dates or references, actual translations of phrases from Chinese and so forth.

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Shifting our focus art-wise, I loved and still love Ben Costa’s lush, sketchy, loose style in terms of his line and colour work. And you can really see it change in the first volume, where he was clearly figuring things out and then later when he’d gotten a better grasp of it. The only draw back is he kept and still keeps getting better in his newer work so the first volume of Pang is mostly just going to get you hooked on his incredibly fun style.
His attention to detail is great to, even going so far as to show an experienced martial artist grappling *without using their thumb as to avoid it being easily broken in the fight.

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Panel layout does get slightly convoluted during the first volume (as Costa was figuring things out, he obviously tried stuff and left it in there) though never so much that it’s a real problem, more of a “Uh, wait, which panel do I go to after the third…Oh that one!” type of deal. Costa’s gestures and facial expressions are top-notch stuff that punctuate his scenes adding that little extra kick to every panel. The stylized look of the series allows the reader to really drink in everything from colour choices, scenery, sound effects, etc.

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The last few pages of the book have a special thanks section and a one-page write up on the time period chosen, what historical facts were used and even which books were used as reference, professionally cited and everything. A very classy move that Costa didn’t need to do, again showing he loves the story, the history and everything about this comic.

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So, in the end I highly recommend Shi Long Pang, the webcomic, and Pang: Wandering Shaolin Monk, the print comic. An incredibly entertaining, griping story, worth every cent (even if you only read the totally free web version). I’m gonna go back to dreaming of the final volume while you go check it out all the good times, laughs, mystery, tears and bone-shattering kicks to the skull.

Hope you enjoyed this Peril In Panels, I’ll be back with more next time so until then keep it monstrous, everybody!

– J. Kruschack

*And as a person who has grappled in the past, that is a real thing that stunned me when he mentioned it, Costa knows his stuff!

PRELUDES & NOCTURNES

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Peril In Panels XI: PRELUDES & NOCTURNES

Start your Sunday up right with the latest edition of Peril In Panels!
Once more, I, Jonathan Kruschack are bringing to you another comic review:
Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN, specifically volume one, Preludes & Nocturnes.
An award winning and much acclaimed series from the 90’s with a rotating cast of artists (all of them quite incredible and sought after), this story is the beginning of what can be called a saga of epic proportions. This comic has risen from its humble starting point to lofty heights. Let’s dig in, kind reader. Continue reading

Peril In Panels Volume X: SOUTHERN BASTARDS

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Peril In Panels Volume X: SOUTHERN BASTARDS

Let’s heat things up!

Peril In Panels returns in a blaze of glory, with your favourite mouthy jerk of a reviewer, Jonathan Kruschack. This time around we’re talking about SOUTHERN BASTARDS by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Volume one, “HERE WAS A MAN”, is a book I’d heard nothing but good things about for quite some time. So when I’d come into some spare cash I went to the bookstore and WHAM, there it was. Snatched it up as quick as I could and gave it a solid read. Here’s what I thought of it.

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Basic Plot Overview (no spoilers)

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Earl Tubb is a man who hates Craw County, Alabama, his former hometown. He hates it, hates the people in it, hates his dead father, etcetera, etcetera. But he’s told that his uncle is now unable to live in Earl’s deceased father’s home anymore and must go back to pack things up and sell the house. So, he hits the road and returns home for the first time in decades. And things have changed. Mainly, there’s a tree growing out of his father’s grave, the entire town answers to a man named Euless Boss, the local football coach and that even the police are under his control. Now, Earl, a big, striking figure of a man, doesn’t give a damn about any of this, until an old acquaintance of his is beaten to death by the football team. Things take a turn as Earl seems dragged back into Craw County’s seedy underbelly trying to find answers. And it only gets worse from there.

southern-3The Writing

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Jason Aaron is a fantastic writer, who I compare (slightly) to Rick Remender, another writer with some damn good dialogue and story-writing chops. The guy knows how characters should speak and act, how to hook somebody with a story and keep them coming for more. nobody in this book is a stereotype, they’re just southern. They act like real people. Earl Tubb is not a good man, he’s okay at best. He has his faults and knows it. Hell, near the end of “HERE WAS A MAN” he admits to letting somebody get beat up as a kid because hey, why even care? SOUTHERN BASTARDS is a carefully crafted tale, an honest portrayal of people, who despite being totally fictional (if anything, slightly based on real people) act realistically. They can be dirty or decent. People have flaws. And there’s a reveal at the end that is fantastic, never saw it coming. Pay attention to the phone messages Earl leaves to an unnamed person throughout the story. It’ll hook you for sure.

The Art

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Jason Latour’s art is incredible. His colour pallets are vivid and appropriate, his line art is dirty and sketchy while still clean enough to show his refined details, backgrounds, fight scenes and so forth. HE even has some Graphic Design skills, designing logos and fictitious products for the series. It’s great. Get the TPB and you’ll get a little sneak at his process. And a recipe for fried apple pies, which is a nice bonus but I’m getting off track. His character designs are incredible. I especially love the design of Esaw Goings, an antagonist who looks like is Jay Briscoe’s blond, even more redneck cousin (see the pick of the guy with the neck tattoo up there? Yeah, that’s him. Awesome, right?). Hilarious and intimidating at the same time, again like a real person. Just because you’re scary doesn’t mean you have any fashion sense. Latour makes it all happen, bringing Aaron’s words to life.

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I’m not giving out any spoilers for this series, it’s too new and too good. Do yourself a favour if you like crime mysteries and pick it up. Very much worth your time.

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Peril In Panels Volume 9: Year Of The Deadly Goon Giant Kingsman

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PIP Volume 9: Year Of The Deadly Goon Giant Kingsman

Kept you waiting, huh?

Once again, Peril In Panels is back. Which means I am also back all up in your grill, the grill of comics in general, barbeque grills and any other grills both literal and figurative if I feel like it. So what am I, the loveable, brown-eyed, idol o’ no one, Jonathan Kruschack, going to talk about? Well, from the title you can guess more than one thing. Since I smashed parts of each comics’ title together so abruptly.

I managed to actually make some spare cash and bought a couple new comics during my long absence. From a coming of age tale set in the 80s at a school that’s basically Hogwarts for assassins, to an unofficial biography of a giant, two books set in an unnamed town that seems stuck in the Great Depression to another set in the distant future and finally a book about a complete loser who becomes the next James Bond-style super spy.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

Starting with that last book I mentioned previously. It’s called The Secret Service Kingsman by Mark Millar, with art by Dave Gibbons and co-plotting by Mathew Vaughn.

oddly they left out the "kingsman" part of this title on this cover, so maybe it was an early version? who knows

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Peril In Panels Volume 8: Wasteland

Peril In Panels Volume 8: Wasteland

wasteland1_web“Final broadcast from A-Ree-Yass-I.” – Adam WarRock

Every once and a while, you need to read a good ol’ fashioned post-apocalyptic tale of adventure. And you’re likely to find one, since there’s about an infinite amount of them. Seriously, you can’t throw a tumble-weed down a cracked and empty highway without hitting a story about some desert-walking, abandoned-cityscape searching lone-hero/heroine or their rag-tag group of friends. It’s a classic trope that’s a tad over done. And people love ’em so much. Problem is a lot of them aren’t great at best and are horrible at worst.

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Peril In Panels Volume 7: Dead Winter

“Rest easy, comrade. You’re off the clock now. Your shift is over.”

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Hello, hello, hello and welcome to the latest edition of Peril In Panels*, this time we’ll be taking on the daunting task of discussing the webcomic Dead Winter by Dave Shabet,
a delightful romp through the zombie apocalypse. My name is Jonathan Kruschack and I’ll once again be your guide to all things comics. I’ll be doin’ my best to show you what stands out from the rest (hey, that’s a good line). And trust me when I say that this is not just another zombie apocalypse story. This is a shining example of a well thought-out, interesting, and over all good zombie story, in a sea of mediocre-to-good ones. But let’s put a pin in that point for a minute and talk about the comic’s plot, characters and creator. Continue reading

Peril In Panels Volume 6: Broodhollow

Peril In Panels Volume 6: Broodhollow

Welcome to Peril in Panels once again! Yes, I refuse to stop doing this.

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This is the latest I’ve ever worked on a PIP article, as I’m usually at least a week ahead of my deadline of three weeks. But right now as I start this it’s actually ten to 1:30 am right now, the day this article will be posted (February 15th). I got a cat sleeping on my bed in a quickly-made, flannel-patterned body-pillow fort, the heat on, a glass beer mug full with the remainder of the cool, refreshing water I poured into it and one of the best dang comics to ever grace not only the internet, but the world as well, as my topic of discussion.

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Peril In Panels Volume 5: Kraven’s Last Hunt

This is probably the most difficult PIP article I’ve had to write.
It is infuriatingly difficult to express myself in regards to this story.

Perception, murder, suicide, fear, bitter rivals, courage, honour, rats, love, tight pants
and the soul of a Russian aristocrat. All this and more are what makes “Kraven’s Last Hunt” a fantastic piece of sequential art.

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Peril In Panels: His Face All Red

Peril In Panels: His Face All Red

hey look I can put the pictures in the article now, less links! Hooray!“This man is not my brother.”

Never has an opening line been so true, nor has one ever been so foreboding and off putting at the above quote. Anyways, it’s time for another article where I bullshit about comics, cartoonists, and anything else I can cram in here while I desperately try and be amusing while I do so. Ready? Then let’s go! Continue reading

Peril In Panels: Mish Mash Extravaganza

Y’know, for some unexplained, mysterious reason I really wanted to make a joke referencing Kid Rock (aka Robert James Ritchie, the blandest name ever) and I have no real reason as to why. I don’t particularly like Kid Rock or his music but it just seemed like a good idea. But then again almost all my jokes seem like good ideas. Then I make them.

Anyways. So I’m back, the fog has lifted, the earth has shifted and raised the gifted–damnit! I started making a Kid Rock reference again. What the Hell, me?
Stop making Kid Rock references. Stop it. It’s inappropriate. Alright, shake it off. *cue shaking my head side to side, Nixon-impersonation style* Woo, okay. I think I’m done.

But not with this article, that should’ve already gone underway. So, let’s jump right the fuck into it, this proverbial pit of monsters and creepy shit in comics with this edition of Peril In Panels! So this week we’re doing something different, something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. I’ll be talking about more than one single comic in this article, one from Marvel and two from Dark Horse. I was originally going to do Kraven’s Last Hunt or maybe Preludes and Nocturnes, the first collected volume of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (or maybe even some Emily Carroll “His Face All Red”) but I decided to hold off on those, because I want to take the time to really dissect ’em and explain what I think of them and more importantly WHY I think that. So the perfect solution is to do these smaller stories. Bonus is that they’re all perfect for this article. Enjoy!

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Peril In Panels: Hansel and Gretel

Let’s start things off with a nice, friendly, out of context quote from our subject today,
shall we?

“What are we doing? We’re changing clothes.”

“All that dried blood was starting to act like glue, so we couldn’t wear them anymore.”

So we’re back in action with another edition of Peril In Panels. This time around we aren’t talking North American comics, no sir (and/or madam). We’re taking a trip over to the tentacle-filled land of Japan to read some manga. Thankfully for everyone involved,
none of that (to my knowledge, at least) appears in any canon volumes of Black Lagoon
by Rei Hiroe. Some other things happen in the series, which you could argue are a lot worse/on par with being sexually assaulted by a Cephalopod. Like running into two remorseless killers, who were trained to do all manner of things for the simple amusement of their captors, then were unleashed onto the world to stalk to shadows and paint entire cities with crimson, making the wind stink of rust and gunpowder as they gleefully continue their wanton, unstoppable chaos. But before I get to any of that, I gotta drop some knowledge on you as if it were an anvil and your skull was Wile. E. Coyote
(“Super Genius”). Well bust out your comically small umbrellas and have a worried look on your face because this is one big ol’ anvil.

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Peril In Panels: Hellboy

Greetings, o kind reader. This is Jonathan Kruschack, co-host of the Enigmatic Monster Project Podcast and this is Peril In Panels, the hip, new column all about monsters in comics. Which I’m using as a soapbox from which to blather on and on about comics because why else would I do anything, right? And I’m going to be talking about monsters in any way, shape or form that they’ve appeared in comics. From cosmic entities that pierce reality to slug people who thirst for flesh (while fearing salt) to crazy, unstoppable axe-murderers baying for your blood. If it’s monstrous and appeared inside of a panel in a funny book, I’ll be sure to be all up in its grill. By which I mean I’ll discuss it as intelligently as possible.

Oh, and I may have to periodically give out some spoilers which I will clearly indicate beforehand and I’ll try not to reference once mentioned. Because I’m such a great guy. Forgive me if mistakes occur, in an effort to make get this article out as fast as possible I’m editing it myself and I am in no way qualified to do that.
I’m unsure how long I’ll be doing this so I figured I better start off strong.
So our first subject is the world savin’, Right Hand of Doom havin’, paranormal investigatin’ Hellboy.

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