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Indie Comic Review: Zhao Vol. 1

Ancient China is a time of history ripe with storytelling opportunities. The empires and kingdoms that rose and fell within those lands provide a tremendous amount of leeway into telling all kinds of different stories that Western audiences are very rarely introduced to. A lot of times, stories focus on the big picture of conquest. They want to dissect the rulers and the various ruthless decisions they had to make in order to expand their influence in the region. But with so few stories during this time period, smaller tales often get overlooked. That seems to be what Zhao focuses on, and it does so with tremendous action, political intrigue, and heart.


Zhao begins in the 13th century as the Mongol army invades China. Wanting to keep his family safe, a royal general goes on the run to protect his wife and children. They face Mongol soldiers and barely escape with their lives. Years later, the general has taken his family to a backwater village, but their safety becomes upended when the children grow tired of Mongol rule and fight back. The family is soon discovered and brought before the Mongol Khan, who makes an offer to the general to work for him in order to spare the lives of his family.


As of this writing, I haven't finished the story. I only made it up to chapter four of the first volume, but I'm definitely intrigued enough to continue, despite the story's rather predicatable plotline. Right from the start, I was surprised by how swiftly paced the story was with action. It slowed down at the right moments and provided enough political suspense for even fans of Game of Thrones to enjoy. But it also felt genuinely Chinese in its language and culture (not that I am an expert in the subject). The book did feel a bit amateurish in some aspects, mainly the art and lettering. But as an indie work, they can be overlooked for the sake of telling a great story. As for an intended audience, the work may not resonate with traditional mainstream comic book fans. There's no science fiction, fantasy, or horror, genres typically associated with the medium. The book is straight up historical fiction, but as I mentioned earlier, the action and political intrigue is enough to keep those readers who would find such a thing appealing and engaged.


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