Blog Archives

Costa, Ben – Pang The Wandering Shaolin Monk Volume 2: Winter Worm, Summer Grass



Pang The Wandering Shaolin Monk Volume 2: Winter Worm, Summer Grass

I made it clear in the last review for this series that unless you an utterly joyless human being that you should be reading this, but it looks like that last review was from a few years ago, so just to make it perfectly clear: if you have any interest in the history of shaolin monks in China in the 1600’s, or martial arts, or Chinese history, or just good story-telling, you should be reading this series. I’ll get my only complaint out of the way early: this could have used a brief recap of the last book. A little “previously on” would have done wonders, but Ben does a good job of getting the reader caught up to speed pretty quickly. This one starts off with Pang remembering the very early days of his training (which comes up in a big way later on), and from there we spend a little time with Pang wandering around the countryside, trying to find a sign of a temple that he knows is nearby. The next scene is something that is probably going to haunt me, and something that was unexpected (to Pang and to me as a reader): a fight with a tiger. Pang stumbles across a couple of tiger cubs, the mother attacks to defend them, and Pang has to decide whether he is like a true Buddha, somebody who is willing to give his life to feed the tigress and her cubs, or whether he is willing to fight dirty to survive. You can probably guess which way he decides based on the fact that his name is in the title and this fight happens early on, and in hindsight what he does is probably the only way that anybody could have a hope of surviving a tiger attack, but I wasn’t prepared for the brutality of it, or the way that Pang is essentially consigning three tigers to death with his act. This act also breaks Pang, leaving him utterly unsure of the rightness of his actions for a long time afterward. From there Pang meets up with a drunken monk, hears the story of how another temple was destroyed, learns some pieces as to why all of this is happening to the monks, and meets a very skilled bounty hunter on the road. Yeah, that’s all vague, because it’s fantastic and you should just read it for yourself. Ben says on his website that he taking a break before starting the third and final volume of this series, and although “taking a break” always makes me nervous with comics, he does seem dedicated to finishing the story. I really hope he does, as this could end up being on the list of great comics achievements when it’s finished. Which, again, is why you should be reading this now. $19.95