Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Monkey Prince #6 Review

Written by: Gene Luen Yang
Art by: Bernard Chang
Colors by: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters by: Janice Chang
Cover art by: Bernard Chang, Marcelo Maiolo
Cover price: $3.99
Release date: July 5, 2022

Monkey Prince #6 unveils the mystical origins of DC's version of the Monkey King to teach Marcus a valuable life lesson about overcoming his fear. But, unfortunately,  Marcus will have to be a quick study when Amnesty Bay is attacked by a giant hermit crab possessed by a demon under Black Manta's control.

Was It Good?

If you've been following the series, Monkey Prince #6 may feel like the point where Marcus's journey to becoming the next big thing in teen superheroes is coming off the rails. Visually, this issue is bright, fun, and action-packed. But if you read the story, you're more likely to say, "What the...?"

When last we left Marcus, he was struggling to adapt to life in Amnesty Bay when he encounters a nasty shapeshifter from the Trench, foreshadowing an imminent attack by the sea monsters. Meanwhile, Marcus's brush with the ocean uncovers his fear of the water, much to Shifu Pigsy's chagrin. Although Marcus's relocation feels like a redux of his previous adventure, there's enough fun and games potential to tell an entertaining experience.

However, the execution, story order, pacing, and details also feel like a redux of the first issue's flaws. Yang jumps here, there, and everywhere as scenes hit you in rapid-fire order, giving the impression there's too much story and not enough time/pages/issues.

First, we get a lengthy flashback to the origins of the Monkey King, a flashback that should have appeared in the first or second issue instead of crowding out an already overstuffed #6. Next, Shifu Pigsy uses the story to teach Marcus about overcoming your fear, but the lesson Pigsy tries to impart doesn't match the story he tells. The Monkey King was afraid of dying, so he goes on a quest to obtain immortality. By overcoming death, the Monkey King grows more powerful and arrogant until he's brought low by Buddha. The story imparts a lesson of humility and gratitude, not overcoming fear, but Yang completely misses the point in how the story is applied in this issue.

Elsewhere, Marcus's parents help Black Manta infuse a hermit crab with a silver-horned demon to use as a bio-weapon (sound familiar? See issues #1-4). The experiment works until the controller is damaged by the local police and the monster goes on a rampage. No mention is made of how the monster is controlled. What was Black Manta planning to do with a giant hermit crab? How did Marcus's parents know how to transfer a demon into a small animal AND build a controller for it? The entire setup is implausible and ill-conceived.

When Marcus's School Lunch is interrupted by the shellfish Kaiju, he transforms into the Monkey Prince to take down the monster. For unknown reasons, the Monkey Princestartst acting and cracking jokes like Deadpool, which is a bizarre tone shift. If the Monkey Prince takes on a whole new personality after the transformation, why would Marcus's fear of the water be an issue? Why is Marcus acting differently if the shift doesn't change his character?

Just after the fight, Marcus sees two masked henchmen help an injured Black Manta escape, but somehow Marcus recognizes the henchmen as his parents simply from their body posture and moving. Marcus's recognition is an important plot point as he realizes his parents are criminals, but the way Marcus discovers the truth is a stretch beyond belief.

As if all this wasn't enough, we learn the sea monsters of the Trench are preparing to attack Atlantis, and an Atlantean spy manages to send a message to Aquaman as a warning.
But wait, there's more. We learn Atlantis has an underwater equivalent of Chinatown... for some reason... populated by Chinese dragons... one of which has a shard of the Monkey King's famous staff lodged in his brow. By this time, you'll rub your temples and reach for two aspirin.

Oh, and the Monkey King (Marcus's "spiritual" father?) is in the Phantom Zone (???)

It's all too much. Too many leaps in logic. Too many contrivances. Too many inventions to fit the story that doesn't make any sense. And it all comes at you with the speed and subtly of a fire hose to the face.

About The Reviewer: Gabriel Hernandez is the Publisher & EIC of ComicalOpinions.com, a comics review site dedicated to indie, small, and mid-sized publishers.

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Bits and Pieces:

Monkey Prince #6 throws everything and the kitchen sink at you to move Marcus's journey forward as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Taking the exact opposite approach to decompressed storytelling, Yang crams the issue so full of developments, contrivances, logic leaps, and flashbacks that you don't know where to start, and by the time you get to the last page you may wish you hadn't.


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