July 22nd, 2014

pearly whites.

Review: Judge Bao & The Jade Phoenix by Patrick Marty & Chongrui Nie

Judge Bao & The Jade Phoenix
by Patrick Marty & Chongrui Nie

First volume in the Judge Bao series

A legendary figure in Chinese history, Lord Bao Zheng was renowned for his strong sense of fairness and dedication to bringing justice to all Chinese, no matter their social status. He has been charged with ferreting out corruption and restoring the dignity of the Chinese government under the Emperor Ren Zong. With a loyal bodyguard, a page, and his secretary, Judge Bao travels the great Chinese empire, uncovering scandals and solving mysteries. In the case of the Jade Phoenix, Judge Bao meets a dying widow who begs him to save her son, falsely imprisoned for a murder he did not commit.

The art in this graphic novel is beautiful. It looks as if each panel was etched on scratchboard, giving each scene a delicate handling of light and shadow. Clearly, the artist knew what he was doing, because the figures also retain a strong sense of weight and mass, and the faces are expressive. I can’t help but be impressed. It makes the panels seem old, and the scratchy edges remind me that the Judge Bao legend began long ago, and has been passed through many hands, like the worn surface of a family heirloom.

I don’t know if this particular tale is based on an existing Judge Bao legend, or if Patrick Marty created the mystery wholecloth, but it’s quite good. The Judge and his traveling companions are introduced quickly, and the reader easily gets a sense of their personalities. The mystery builds quickly, keeping the suspense taut, and there’s plenty of action and fighting (and even a sexy break or two). By the end of the first graphic novel, I was more than ready to keep going.

This is where we run into a problem. The story cuts off very abruptly, and the final page promises that the adventures will continue in “Judge Bao & The King of Children”. Unfortunately, this next installment has not been published in the United States, and the publisher has not announced an estimate for when it may appear on bookstore shelves. I do hope that Archaia will eventually get the next Judge Bao out, because this wasn’t written to be a standalone graphic novel and I want to finish the story!

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about Judge Bao & The Jade Phoenix, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant
2012: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels and Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
2011: The King’s Witch by Cecelia Holland
2010: Off to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival!
2009: Best Intentions by Emily Listfield
2008: The Treasure of Montsegur by Sophy Burnham