Quit Monkeying Around And Check Out DC’s Newest Hero In Monkey Prince #1

Written by: Brandon Barzola

DC Comics debuted its newest Asian hero with Monkey Prince #1, released at the beginning of Lunar New Year. The new limited series by writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Bernard Chang takes inspiration from the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West and its most prominent character, the Monkey King. 

The Monkey Prince series is one I’ve been eagerly awaiting since the character’s debut in DC Comics’ Asian superhero one-shot, DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration, from May 2021. The character’s first appearance in The Monkey Prince Hates Superheroes gave us a small glimpse into the Monkey Prince’s abilities, personality, and life, but left us wanting more. Nine months later and another quick teaser with Monkey Prince #0, we finally have an exciting introduction to the new hero’s story, with Monkey Prince #1: Enter the Monkey.

There’s so much to love about the first issue of Monkey Prince. Aside from the fact that now there’s more representation amongst DC’s long list of heroes, the series is backed by a team of Asian creators, with Jessica Chen as editor. There is excitement and humor packed into this issue, with Bernard Chang’s art bringing the cast to life with expressive closeups and Sebastian Cheng’s colors making each page pop with lively reds and yellows or deep blues. Gene Luen Yang’s writing is as cohesive as ever, especially in crafting a new hero based on a story mostly familiar to Chinese audiences. Janice Chiang’s lettering in this issue complements the writing and makes for a smooth read, especially with the inclusion of a few Mandarin-speaking characters. 

Monkey Prince #1 follows Marcus Sun, a new student at Gotham City High School, who has trouble fitting in because of the anxiety he developed as a kid. As a child, Marcus witnessed Gotham’s very own caped crusader, Batman, break into his home on a stormy night and attack his parents, who were freelance henchpeople for supervillains. From that night on, Marcus developed a hatred for superheroes and phobias of water, thunder, and bats. 

After being bullied for his phobias, Marcus is told by the school janitor, Mr. Zhu, to face his fears and jump into the school pool, or “go through the water curtain.” Once Marcus takes Mr. Zhu’s advice and jumps into the pool, he’s transported into a new, mystical world where Mr. Zhu introduces himself as Shifu Pigsy. Here, Pigsy reveals to Marcus that his real father is none other than the Monkey King, Sun Wukong. 

After transforming into the Monkey Prince, we see that the new hero has inherited some of his father’s signature abilities: riding on a cloud, mastery of martial arts, and immortality; as well as some of the Monkey King’s signature personality traits: his arrogance, eccentricity, and egotistical nature. 

Overall, I loved the many subtle nods to Journey to the West that connect Marcus’ journey to becoming the Monkey Prince with the Monkey King’s origins. One such example of this is Marcus having to step through the water curtain, or waterfall, to fully transform into the Monkey Prince. Moments like these made me curious to learn more about the Monkey King and Journey to the West, a character and story I had only known about in passing. 

Monkey Prince #1 ends on an unexpected cliffhanger as the Monkey Prince loses his head after Batman and Robin show up in response to him wreaking havoc on his school’s bullies. No matter where the series takes us next, I’ll make sure to pick up the next 11 issues as they’re steadily released, and I’ll be sure to share it with all my friends. This is a story worth talking about. 

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