Adapted by Wing Shing Ma
128 pages, color
Published by ComicsOne

I have a confession to make. About a year or so ago, a copy of the movie Hero fell into my hands. I’m not going to say how it got there, but let’s just say that it did. By the time I was done watching it, all I could think is, “Why the heck hasn’t Miramax released this in the United States, instead of just sitting on the rights for quite some time now?” Well, it seems that Quentin Tarantino has resurrected it from movie limbo and people who saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 may have even seen the trailer for the movie. But if you haven’t, let me tell you right now that it’s utterly gorgeous… and that comic creator Wing Shing Ma has replicated that look and feel in his adaptation of Hero.

In 200 BC, the seven kingdoms of China were at war, with the Qin Empire poised to take over its neighbors and form the country of China that we know today. With conquering the countries around you, though, you create great enemies. Three powerful assassins are all trying to kill the Emperor of Qin, with only one nameless man ready to stop them. But even Nameless himself has a couple of tricks up his sleeve…

Ma’s adaptation of Hero is pretty faithful to the movie, with only a couple of small deviations from the script (which Ma explains at the end of the volume). He does a really nice job with his usage of the “story within a story” structure of Hero, keeping the plot flowing smoothly and revealing just enough to keep the audience intrigued. When the big twist at the end of the story hits, Ma unveils it with just the right amount of flair and importance to make sure that you as a reader don’t miss it.

I’ve always liked Ma’s painted art much more than his plain pencil and ink, but with Hero Ma steps up his art to a whole new level. The amount of detail and color on the page is outstanding, an important facet in a book adapting one of the most visually stunning movies I’ve seen in a long time. From a fight in a storm of amber leaves to the jade-colored curtains blowing in the night air, the colors of Hero the comic are just as formidable as the colors of Hero the movie. It actually makes me wish they hadn’t put sound effects in the comic at all, because the art is so beautiful here that it actually looks out of place with its computer font overlaid upon Ma’s creations.

I’ve always been critical of ComicsOne’s translations of their kung-fu books in the past, so it will come as a shock to my loyal readers when I say this: I thought the translation worked really well in Hero. No strangely structured sentences or an over-reliance on exposition here, just a smooth-flowing script to go with Ma’s art. In ComicsOne’s kung-fu comics line, this is easily the crown jewel. When Hero opens in theatres next month, don’t lament the fact that the DVD won’t be released for some to come. Just head to your nearest comic book store and pick up the adaptation of Hero because not only will it bring back to mind the thrill and wonder of the movie, but it’s a piece of art in its own right. Well done.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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