Friday, December 2, 2011

Leroy Douresseaux Reviews: INFINITE KUNG FU


FOREWORD: Colin Geddes
ISBN: 978-1-891830-83-9; paperback
464pp, B&W, $24.95 U.S.

Rating: Young Adult (13+)

Kagan McLeod is a Canadian artist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, and Mad Magazine, to name a few. Infinite Kung Fu was a comic book created and published by the Toronto-based cartoonist, his first major comics work in fact.

McLeod published seven issues of the series before moving it to Top Shelf Productions. A few months ago, Top Shelf published Infinite Kung Fu, a paperback omnibus edition (with a flex-cover) that collects the series in its entirety. This collection has an introduction by Chinese martial arts actor, Gordon Liu (who played the white-browed Pai Mei in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2), and a foreword by martial arts film historian, Colin Geddes.

Infinite Kung Fu is set in the Martial World, a version of Earth that has regressed from civilization. The lack of civilization is not enough, however, because the Emperor wants to destroy the world. Because of some powerful kung fu, the Emperor cannot return to his body and exists as a ghost. He needs to recover his armor, which was separated into five pieces by his enemies, which they hid in secret spots around the Martial World.

The Emperor has sent his five great generals on a quest to retrieve the armor. His newest general is Yang Lei Kung, an ex-soldier who has infiltrated the Emperor’s forces. Will Lei Kung fight the emperor or do his bidding, and what are the plans of the Emperor’s most diabolical and conniving general, Li Zhao? An eclectic cast includes the Eight Immortals, a legion of zombies, and various students of the Immortals, including the corn-rowed Black man, Moog Joogular.

As a linear narrative, Infinite Kung Fu has some structural problems. Scene shifts sometime come with jarring breaks. Subplots come and go and change, sometimes from one chapter to the next or disappear and return a few chapters later as something new. But fuck all that! Infinite Kung Fu is a damn good comic book.

Although it is steeped in martial arts and kung fu culture, Infinite Kung Fu is an epic masterpiece of comic book fun. Yes, I said fun. This comic book is drawn in black and white (with lots of ink wash), but you’d swear it was in color. The characters are such gaudy oddballs, so vividly conceived and drawn, with the eccentric motivations, ardent emotions, and passionate conflicts. The story is set in a weird world of kung fu and bizarre magic with an exotic landscape as the backdrop. The plot involves long-running feuds and salty conflicts, but everything rests on an interesting philosophical disagreement that surprisingly may make sense to some readers.

Infinite Kung Fu is deranged and sometimes nonsensical, but that is a good thing. Too many comic books have vague literary aspirations and need to give it up, cause few of them are worthy of being literature. They need to be what they are – glorious outsider trash. Infinite Kung Fu takes kung fu films, Westerns, horror, and even a touch of sci-fi and mysticism and turns it into good comic book gumbo. Kagan McLeod is wild and free and his imagination is on fire. By not trying to make something important, McLeod made a great comic book.

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