Review - White Crane – The Legacy of Fang Chi (Volume One)

"There's a big, bald man attacking the monks! Come on, let's go!"

If you ever find yourself in the mountains of China, stories would tell you that you could stumble upon any number of temples and/or monks training in a specific discipline of martial arts. There's a lot that goes along with that ability and knowledge, so ensuring that it's used in the right hands is important. That's why you need a hero capable of handling the responsibilities and stories such as White Crane – The Legacy of Fang Chi (Volume One) tries to offer up one such hero. The issue is written by Zanna Vaughan-Davies, illustrated by Santiago Espina, colored by Twinkle Planet Studio, Diogo Nascimento, Sara Machajewski and Jorge Alberto Cortes.

The year is 1713 and the place is Tai'he mountain, where 500 years before, Chang San Feng, a legendary Taoist monk created the martial art of Tai Chi Fist after observing a crane fighting a snake. On a quiet and secluded spot, a young girl is being trained by her father in their family’s rare fighting style. 17-year-old Fang Chi is growing sick of the intense training and isolated lifestyle. But Chi is careless with her pleas to the universe: the re-emergence of the brutal black magicians of an ancient serpent cult turns her life upside down. This begins a journey of violence, mysticism and friendship that leads Fang Chi to become one of the greatest martial artists of her generation – a legacy that could save the world...or destroy it.

White Crane – The Legacy of Fang Chi (Volume One) shares a lot in common with many other stories about martial arts and their masters. Vaughan-Davies doesn't stray too far from the script in that regard, with Fang Chi playing the role of the somewhat prophesied hero who must find her way. There's also a bit of insurrection throughout the countryside that offers up a foil for the hero, offering up the insurmountable odds she must overcome to find herself. There's some pretty intense sequences peppered throughout in a way that drives the seriousness of the story. Vaughan-Davies dialogue definitely tells the story, but feels somewhat anachronistic in many ways.

Artistically, the illustrations effectively convey the story. There are some rather awkward kinetic movements illustrated, as Espina's characters come across as slightly rigid. This tautness removes the fluidity from combat one would expect from a book about martial arts, as many fight scenes come across as staged. The facial expressions are inconsistent throughout as well, with many characters showing emotion in ways that aren't quite in line with the emotions they're supposed to be exhibiting. The illustrative style overall feels a little more cartoonish and anime inspired, which does fit with the subject matter of the book.

White Crane – The Legacy of Fang Chi (Volume One) is a pretty ambitious take on a timeless story. The concept of martial arts being the key to survival is tried and true, especially when it revolves around one character being the key to saving a whole group of people. Vaughan-Davies relies on that formula to tell the story, using somewhat graphic dialogue in the characters' exchanges. Espina's illustrations are more or less a good fit for the story, save for a few body movement displays that feel a little unnatural. White Crane – The Legacy of Fang Chi (Volume One) is the start of a pretty intense book that definitely has a lot of heart and could continue to prove interesting as the story proceeds.

White Crane – The Legacy of Fang Chi (Volume One) is available now.