Monkey Prince #9 review

Another day, another city for Marcus Shugel-Shen, who’s been moving around the DC Universe since learning he’s the Monkey Prince, son of a Chinese deity. Taking him places are adoptive parents Laura and Winston who are geniuses, but pretty stupid.

Stupid because they waste their intellects as henchpeople for super criminals. They also risk their lives, case in point being when they take a job for one Lex Luthor in Metropolis.

The moral of the story is that a Luthorcorp zap gun isn’t much use against otherworldly demons looking for clones of clones.

Marcus, meanwhile, who doesn’t officially know his parents are stinkers, is on Cloud Something or Other, being taught a new trick by pig-headed mentor Mr Zhu.

When Marcus leaves to meet some new pals in a diner, Mr Zhu is attached by a couple of mystical scumbags on day release from Batman vs Robin.

Marcus’s pleasant evening, meanwhile, is ended when his Dad turns up to drag him away to meet the one man Winston believes can revive his basically dead wife.

As Grandpa Gerard addresses the Laura problem, Marcus notices a superhero in the area. A childhood encounter with Batman has left Marcus hating superheroes…

… then again, he’s a teenager with raging hormones.

The first time I came across Monkey Prince, in the DC Festival of Heroes giant, I disliked him. A lot. He was hugely annoying, with his cocky attitude, and he was so rude to poor Captain Marvel. In his own book, though, Marcus proved not only palatable, but likeable… anyone who can annoy Damian Wayne can’t be all bad. Writer Gene Luen Yang has thrown everything into this series – ancient myth, superheroes, teen drama – and it works. So far Marcus, with powers that include the ability to carry on chatting even when decapitated, has teamed with Batman, Robin and Aquaman and it looks like he’s heading into the upcoming Lazarus Planet crossover with Supergirl.

Despite his tongue hanging out at the very sight of the Maid of Migut (heaven knows why, in that hideous outfit), Marcus looks set for romance with someone else. Having been absent for several issues, Kaya, his pal from Gotham City, calls, and admits to feelings for Marcus. Awwwww.

There’s an overarching storyline involving extraterrestrial demons – they’re the guys out to absorb Bizarro clones – but I’m not great at keeping the mythology straight; I’d be happy for Marcus to simply continue his tour of the DCU with his awful parents, with Mr Zhu hanging around. That is, if Laura is revived. Given who Grandpa Gerard turns out to be – a longtime DC baddie whose original name has never been revealed* – I wouldn’t bet against it.

(And with that it suddenly hits me where Monkey Prince Marcus’s ‘Shugel’ name comes from!)

Matching the energy of Yang’s script is Monkey King co-creator Bernard Chang’s art, which blazes across the pages. The action scenes are powerful, but it’s the emotion written on the faces that really impresses me, from Stupid Winston’s concern for Stupid Laura to Grandpa Gerard’s open contempt for his son-in-law to Kaya’s vulnerability as she opens up to Marcus over the phone. His reactions are lovely too. The demands of the story mean Chang’s Supergirl is terribly stern, but in that one panel in which her face is in repose she looks rather beautiful.

And I like Chang’s interpretation of Tannarak and Jinx, foes of the Phantom Stranger and Titans respectively and currently embedded in Mark Waid’s Devil Nezha storyline which has moved from World’s Finest to the aforementioned Batman vs Robin.

The colours of Marcelo Maiolo are fantastic in their attention to detail, the skin tone modelling is much more subtle than in other comics. And Supergirl, for probably the first time, gets to have nail polish! Veteran letterer Janice Chiang completes the core creative team assembled by excellent editor Jessica Chen, giving us a sterling lettering job… I’m very keen on that demon’s flaming speech balloon back there.

Chang and Maiolo’s cover is cute, I suspect the ‘Monkey King’ on the Daily Planet globe was meant to replace the regular logo but minds changed at the last minute, meaning we have one redundant ‘Monkey King’. Hey ho.

If you’ve not yet tried this comic, give it a go – it’s beautifully crafted, is going to become more important to the wider DC line and the new storyline has a brilliant title – ‘The Monkey King and I’. Go on, read it, and report back here!

* After the fact footnote – I tell a lie, Gerard Shugel first appeared under that name in the excellent Palmiotti/Gray/Conner Power Girl series… there’s a useful recap of the villain’s comic book career over at DC Online. Avoid if you’ve not read Monkey King and don’t wish to be spoiled!

11 thoughts on “Monkey Prince #9 review

  1. I also wasn’t taken by that original short story in the Festival book, but picked this issue up, and plan to get the next couple of issues, because I knew of the Supergirl appearance and the coming Lazarus Planet tie-ins. Does this mean Supergirl will figure into that event more than the pretty insignificant way she’s been featured in Dark Crisis so far? We’ll see. It seems DC is starting to promote Power Girl far more.

    I always like Bernard Chang’s art. The story here, though, has some random transitions, like how Supergirl simply stumbles on Gerard’s lab. Why does his dad take Marcus along with his dying mother to see Gerard for the first time? Seems like a bad time to meet your grandfather, and why not try to heal her before Marcus even finds out?

    But the characters are interesting, at least. And I get a kick out of their names when I read them, but for some reason can’t keep ANY of them in mind. Not the pig’s name, nor the Big Bad, nor his Generals. Nor the name of Marcus’s magic rod, which I read as having an exclamation mark in the middle of. (Ruy! Gingko Biloba or something.)

    Kaya seems suspicious to me. As Marcus narrates, she wasn’t into him much when he was in Gotham. But maybe that’s just teenagers being fickle.

    Chang posted his original pre-colored version of the initial Supergirl appearance, and somewhere he posted that it changed. Indeed, it’s different in a few subtle ways, and one not-so-subtle way: he originally drew her with long hair, then chopped it off in the final version. I suppose that was editorial dictum. They are quite serious about the current look, and what I’d estimate as the 10 years they’ve aged her. No one likes it, as far as I can tell.

    https ://www . instagram . com/p/ClTIEvYu4nR/

    Plus, she had some creases in her clothes which were replaced by the muscles (and fat?) artists are now giving her. I swear she can barely fit in her ugly golden girdle.

    Maybe they want an older Supergirl to make her more mature than Jon, to be a wiser sister figure.They don’t need 2 relatively immature Els. In which case, the age-up of Jon is bad for everyone.

    In these politically correct days, I wonder if we’ll ever see a return to the classic look.

    (She has definitely worn nail polish before – even as a Red Lantern, though you wouldn’t think Red Lanterns would be interested in such niceties.)

    Are you planning to try to read Lazarus Planet? Mark Waid’s name is on just two of the ever-growing number of stories, so mostly it looks like anthology material written by their new stable of second-string writers. Now they’ve announced a SIX PART Wonder Woman extension to Lazarus Planet in March, and I have a feeling they’ll add more books in March. The events never end!

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    1. Thanks, as ever, for reading and commenting. I suppose Marcus’s dad took him along to see Grandpa Gerard because having had his wife killed, he wants to know his son is Ok.

      It never crossed my mind Kaya might be bad. Maybe she’s in league with the terrible Jay Nakamura.

      That Instagram link didn’t work but I found a pic of Supergirl on his Instagram, it was most peculiar, very mannish. As for whether she’ll look younger again, I think the preview art for the coming Super books revamp answers that.

      I’ll be reading the main Lazarus Planet books, and whichever spin-offs catch my eye. I won’t be rushing to read a Wonder Woman tie-in, as WW event tie-ins tend to be terrible.

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      1. Sorry about the link. I retried it and at first it didn’t work for me either, but it does work eventually – just have to erase the right number of spaces very carefully :(.

        If you were looking at his most recent posts, that black & white Supergirl is a crop of the same drawing as her first appearance in the comic. I think the final version might look worse because of the criss-crossing armored “webbing” he added. Originally, her blouse had some creases and looked more natural.

        But now that you mention it, yes, she is mannish. I only thought it was ugly, but it’s almost a male body. Many male weightlifters have chests almost (but not quite) her size. And she does, of course, now wear a wrestling belt.

        She looks like her identity is shifting, so maybe her new trajectory will be a gender transition. While they have one or more trans characters, has DC yet featured a story about someone who transitioned? I wish I hadn’t thought of that, but no offense to anyone who would want to read that story.

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      2. Now that DC has remembered Power Girl was already the character they kept trying to turn Supergirl into and started featuring Karen again, I feel like Kara is getting rudderless again. Remember when the difference between DC and Marvel was Marvel had heroes with human foibles and DC’s heroes were demigods and paragons of virtue? Now the difference is most of DC’s pantheon is dak personalities with no stable continuity. A postive, hopful Supergirl doesn’t fit the mess they’ve cfeated so they’ll screw around with her persona like they did Linda Danvers’ professional life pre-Crisis!

        My wish is Jim Lee and Harras out and Palmiotti as EIC and DC adopting Marvel style linewide summits so the creators stop working in isolation.

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  2. Yep, I saw that panel of Supergirl and it took me moments to figure out it *was* Supergirl. Terrible drawing of a horrible outfit, and since when did Kara look so matronly? What’s with the weird webbing on her torso too? Bernard Chang’s art is, to my eyes, garbage but the Supergirl whole-body design is hideous anyway. She looks like one of those gorgeous women who decides she should have fillers and cosmetic surgery, mutilating herself through stupidity. Err, well done, DC?

    (I hope “Grandpa Gerard” isn’t named for Gerard Jones or ol’ Simian Monarch might be in trouble… Eeps.)

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      1. Ach, I tend to loathe manga-influenced stuff. I’m no fan of the distorted-looking faces or the dull figurework nor the slippery or over-“glowy” digital coloring (I’ve liked Maiolo’s work elsewhere…but not here). Take another look at those panels with Gerard: is that a natural/electric light from in the building…or is it on fire? We are diametrically opposed in our reaction to this, I think but that’s fine! I mean I like stuff by prime Keith Giffen or Frank Quitely (Quitely still got it, when he deems to grace us with his artistic presence) that others might decry; I love Sienkiewicz’s Elektra: Assassin work (not really his Shadow stuff but for the excellent covers). I can quite like or barely tolerate Patrick Gleason’s work depending on the issue while Humberto Ramos’s “art” is an abomination in the face of the Lord (Charles), it looks like a cross between outsider art or as if a quite skilled artist was experiencing an epileptic seizure as he drew. Chang’s art: me no like. To me it resembles a Bizarroworld version of Francis Manapul. Now Manapul, there’s a great stylist, Chang on the other hand’s stylizes art brings me out in hives. Perhaps “garbage” was an intemperate comment but, yes, I dislike it viscerally. Does it make me want to vomit through my eyes? Now that would be telling.

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      2. Thanks for a wonderful reply, and apologies for the late response, it’s been a heck of a week! I could never work out what was going on in Elektra: Assassin, but that was likely the deliberately obscure script directing Sienkiewicz to draw things that made little sequential sense. Giffen is always good with me, bar the random black blotches on faces – was that really a Munoz thing? I’ve become more tolerant of Ramos, or he’s softened his style… it used to be that I could barely tell the difference between his Spider-Man and Spider-Ham.

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  3. It does look like she had collagen injected into her lips. I noticed that and thought Chang was trying to give her a slightly exotic look. It’s a bit peculiar.

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  4. The reveal of who Marcus’ grandpa is was genius! His batle form introduced years ago is too cool notto use but it never occurred to me ever that it was not conducive to having a life or doing experiemnts. What’s revealed is also a great ‘place’ to have a life outside of villainy and resting between defeats. I’m honestly shocked no one ever thought of this before!

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