Infinite Kung Fu
There was nothing quite like getting together with a group of friends and a stack of kung fu movies. Sure, you knew the movie would probably hit some familiar tropes (battle between the hero and villain for the final scene, blood coming from the mouth means death, etc), but not only were the fights themselves amazing, there was always a chance of weirdness and surrealism to give the night that special “what the hell did we just see” feeling.
You might see hopping vampires, a ghost who eats placenta and urine, a group of gorillas jumping in with kung fu, a giant squid shooting out baby fighting squid, or perhaps a group of turtles dancing to Roxy Music. These are all actual things the author has personally observed in kung fu films, by the way.
Kagan McLeod recreates those kung fu nights with the epic Infinite Kung Fu, the famed illustrator’s first full-length graphic novel. With an introduction from Gordon Liu (star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin andEight Diagram Pole Fighter), Infinite Kung Fu is a sprawling, epic tale of a future that has reverted back to the past, specifically the past as seen in Ocean Shores and Golden Harvest kung fu films, along with a shot of zombie and blaxploitation to shake things up a bit.
A plague of zombies stalks the world, trapped in limbo after the eight immortals each taught a student their kung fu to restore balance. Unfortunately for the earth, five of these students learned the forbidden styles of poison kung fu. Now these students use their powers to assist the ghost emperor in recovering his five pieces of armor to restore his life and destroy the world.Since the immortals are forbidden in meddling in the human world, they choose Yang Lei Kung as their earthly assistant, hoping he can destroy the emperor and restore balance throughout the world.
All the elements of classic kung fu cinema are represented, from the lengthy training scenes (Lei Kung has to read a mountain of books, then climb on them to meet his master), to epic battles with a few twists, like bronze robots and Moog Joogular, who evokes Pedro Bell’s Parliament drawings.
It is hard to believe this is McLeod’s first full length graphic novel. He has a fluid, action-oriented style that combines serene watercolor-like washes for landscapes and tighter, kinetic multi-pane fight scenes. McLeod’s battle staging reaches a height towards the end of the book, where massive battles are intercut with individual bouts, sometimes going pages with no dialogue. Leone-like close-ups of eyes are contrasted with flowing, fluid action scenes, bringing a cinematic style to the book. McLeod mainly follows traditional comic spacing, every once in a while throwing in some innovation, like the series of demon faces that break up the panel of a fight.
One of the advantages Infinite Kung Fu has as a graphic novel as opposed to film is the amazing scenes McLeod can represent, like the outcome of Centipede Kung Fu, which ends with centipedes bursting out of an opponent, or Moog Joogular detaching his body parts to strike an adversary, or McLeod’s superb fighting skeletons.
Infinite Kung Fu ends on an upbeat note, and although balance is achieved, one hopes that a new calamity will strike the earth just to provide the excuse to create a second volume.
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