Pullbox Reviews Fa Sheng: Origins #1- A great stepping on point for a growing Wuxia-inspired comicverse

Fa Sheng: Origins is an all-new wuxia comic created by Peter Shiao, written by Rylend Grant and illustrated by artist Dexter Wee, about the humble beginnings of a great Shaolin Master.  If you like Shang-Chi, Kung Fu, Warrior, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ip Man, or The Grandmaster, this all-new series is for you.

I discovered the awesome of Wuxia cinema at a pretty young age, with the introduction of “Black Belt Theater” on channel 18 every Friday night at 10 pm. The spectacle, the action, the drama, and the action drew me in and hooked me, largely thanks to the prolific efforts of the Shaw Brothers production company. Those movies started a deep-rooted love of a whole new (to me) branch of the action genre that’s going strong to this day.

Now along comes Immortal Studios, a young publisher dedicated to bringing the world of Wuxia to a wider audience with stories ranging from the traditional to the contemporary. I’ve had the chance to check out a couple of their titles and jumped on board when I saw the Kickstarter for Fa Sheng: Origins #1. As a prequel leading up to and tying together other titles in a planned Wuxia universe, this is a great introduction to one of Immortal’s central characters.

Peter Shiao, founder and CEO of Immortal Studios, has been in it from the beginning. An avid reader of the Wuxia novels that inspired him, several of which were written by his father Shiao Yi, Peter has been inspired by the spirit of those stories & is dedicated to keeping their ideals alive. Building on that foundation, writer Rylend Grant is crafting a story that builds on a premise as old as the Hero’s Journey: every hero has a past. Fa Sheng: Origins starts in the middle, giving readers a look at a young martial art adept following a charismatic leader against foreign invaders. We’re shown how loyalty and pride push the idealistic young warrior down a shadowy path, and then a turning point where he’s given a choice between zeal & true honor.

Backing up a great script, artist Dexter Wee keeps pace with the character-driven narrative as well as the dramatic action scenes. I learned Wee’s name when I got hold of The Fuhrer & the Tramp, and have taken notice of everything he’s done since. In anything requiring strong and complex characters, Wee lets their quality show through in his designs. When the action starts, Wee lets it flow across the page with panel breaks and dynamic layouts. Building on that, colorist Omi Remalante gives Fa Sheng’s world depth & mood by accentuating what was started in the script and continued in the illustrations. There are comics where it looks like the artistic team just doesn’t have it together, and this is not one of those.

Never forget the contributions of the unsung heroes of comics… the Letterer. Deron Bennett steps up to bat for Fa Sheng, & does a great job of laying out text and dialogue without interrupting the action. Just as important, at least for me, Bennett lets the script speak for itself without resorting to gimmicky fonts or patterns. In the past, I’ve seen great comics dragged down by lettering that doesn’t show that kind of restraint and it’s painful to watch. In one case, literally, when trying to read the comic gave me a migraine.

Fans of Wuxia cinema, who are waiting for the next epic from Donnie Yen or are marking time before the next re-watch of Jet Li’s Once Upon a Time in China, should be itching to dive into the Immortal Storyverse. This is a great point of entry. Fa Sheng: Origins is everything that made the genre great, classic themes carried out with the love and respect they deserve.

Final Score: 12/13

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