Friday, July 4, 2014

Comics Friday: Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers from Goodreads:
China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldierI ls roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers--commoners trained in kung fu--who fight to free China from "foreign devils."

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of "secondary devils"--Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.
Saints from Goodreads:
China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name by her family when she's born. She finds friendship--and a name, Vibiana--in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. 
But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie...and whether she is willing to die for her faith. 
Beautifully done.   I love the way we're given a slightly fantastical look at historical events, with the ancient Chinese gods in Boxers and Joan of Arc playing a role in Saints.  Very creatively done and an original take on history.  I feel like the author really did the Chinese setting justice and used history to tell a deeper story. I'd love to read more graphic novels like this in the future.

Entertainment Value
I was totally captivated by the stories.  I really enjoyed having both sides of the conflict represented and felt like Yang did a great job of showing both camps.  I've never known much about the Boxer rebellion, but feel like I got a great overview through these books.  I'm interested to learn more and plan to search out some more academic titles to further my knowledge.  This provided a great jumping off point for that.

I feel so intimidated when I write about art, because I really have no knowledge or expertise to base my opinions on.  That said, I really enjoyed the style of this work.  I felt like the images were a good blend of modern graphic novels and traditional Chinese art.  I loved the colors, particularly in Boxers.

I highly recommend giving this one a try, particularly if you have an interest in history or Chinese culture.  It would be an excellent set to have in a classroom or school library.  I can't think of a better way to introduce Chinese history to students.  For that matter, it's a great introduction for adults as well.  I think it's definitely got a wide appeal.

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