Book Of The Month – January 2012
Infinite Kung Fu
Created by Kagan McLeod
Although you may have never heard the name Kagan McLeod before, no doubt that you’ve seen his art somewhere. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in love with his style before I ever discovered who he truly was, or the things he was capable of illustrating. If you read magazines such as Entertainment Weekly or the Hollywood Reporter, chances are you’ve stumbled across his work without even realizing it, for he’s frequently found in several different periodicals of that sort. What if you were to allow him to illustrate a story of his own? Well, then you would get the astounding story of Infinite Kung Fu from the fine people at Top Shelf.
Me personally, I’ve only seen a few of the classic martial arts movies (Enter The Dragon, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) compared to my friends, who are ga-ga for the genre. I know enough to get by, and recognize some of the standard archetypes and familiar storytelling that have been around for generations. Infinite Kung Fu on the other hand, hooked me from page one and kept me entranced all the way to page four hundred and sixty-four. Immediately afterward I wanted more; movies, books, comics, anything that would quench my thirst for martial arts and flying fists of fury. That’s the testament of a great graphic novel in my opinion; when I want to know more about the genre / universe / creator as soon as I’m done basking in all its glory. Thankfully, after the story is told, McLeod has a very handy illustrated history of kung fu in the final pages, and it helps the average schmuck like me figure out what movies or actors to check out. Because of this back-matter, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to watch more kung fu movies with friends, the more ridiculous they are the better! Do yourself a favor and checkout Jackie Chan in The Drunken Master if you haven’t already; it will be your new favorite movie.
Taking almost a decade to produce, you can instantly tell that McLeod loves all things martial arts and kung fu (as if the title alone didn’t tip you off). The entire collection is in black and white with beautiful greytone washes throughout, and for those who know me well, I’m an absolute sucker of washes done right. However it’s not all washes, for McLeod has two styles he plays with; washes, and then a kind of loose-yet-intense sketching of sorts. They mix together beautifully, and it reminds me a little of a similar style that J.H. Williams III plays with on Batwoman. I frantically looked for pieces of original art from the series after I had finished reading it, but alas, I was way too late to the party.
Every fighting style imaginable is thrown into this graphic novel, with a large helping of zombies, blacksploitation, and the supernatural thrown in for that hearty taste. McLeod was obviously that kid in high school who would rather stay at home on a Friday night watching old Hong Kong action flicks, than throwing-up cheap beer at the house party down the block with all the jocks and popular kids. He studied every pose, every killing strike, and even memorized the taste of kung fu (little-known fact; kung fu does have a flavor (the flavor is PAIN!)). Working feverishly on this graphic novel, he captured the pure essence of the genre, and made it an instant classic that people will be talking about for many a millennia. It would make for a fantastically whimsical Hollywood blockbuster, but I don’t think they would ever be able to transfer that same style and flavor that you get when reading this collection. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If you were looking for me to spoil the story (as usual in these reviews) or tell you about the characters, I do apologize but I’m going to let you discover its beauty on your own accord. I was in a state of ecstasy after reading it, and it’s one of those feelings you don’t even want to attempt to try and describe in fear of tarnishing the memory. Reading Infinite Kung Fu is certainly an experience, and one you won’t soon forget. There’s a reason this was my Best / Favorite Graphic Novel of 2011, and it’s because of this; it’s an epic and beautifully crafted story that does great justice to both comic books and kung fu, while remaining completely accessible to every demographic of readers. Simple as that. I don’t know what masterpiece Kagan McLeod has lined-up for us comic fans next, but I’m perfectly willing to wait another decade for him to complete it.
Still not convinced? Go read the first 15 pages online for free, you cheap bastard.