Do you remember when Disney used to release those straight-to-video sequels to their wildly popular animated movies? Or, even better, do you remember when they would create animated TV spin-offs of movies like Aladdin or The Lion King? They were pretty much cheapened versions of something you had come to know and love, and they certainly didn’t hold a candle to the original.
The feelings that I had for those (thankfully, Disney traded in any attempt to capitalize on movie spin-offs for Zack and Cody), are very much the same as I had when reading Kung Fu Panda #1 from Ape Entertainment.
The story, titled “Po the Inmate,” is simple (after all, its target demographic is children): Po and the Furious Five are testing out a new prison that, much like Chorh-Gom, is intended to be inescapable. It’s filled with booby-traps as precautions in the event that a prisoner does try to escape. When one of the guards accidentally pushes a lever triggering said booby-traps, the six Kung Fu masters must find a way to deflect several sets of the fail-safes intended to maim their victims.
While it’s a great effort to recreate the magic of the original film, Matt Anderson’s writing couldn’t fool me, and it certainly won’t fool any Kung Fu Panda fans with even a slightly cultured palate. With its watered-down dialogue and unsuccessful attempts to create humor in the vein of the original Dreamworks movie, it’s uncertain that Kung Fu Panda #1 would even please the franchise’s youngest fans.
The artwork is another story. CV Designs bring Po and the Furious Five into comic form flawlessly, creating images that are so reminiscent of the film that it’s almost scary, with colors that really pop to boot.
The first issue also features a vignette titled “173 Assassins,” about the legendary battle of Master Croc against, you guessed it, 173 assassins. It’s a short and sweet supplement that helps lift an otherwise flat and imitative comic. Kudos go out to Christine Larsen who brings vibrant blues and greens to this short, and to writer Chad Lambert, who creates a fairly engaging eight-page tale.
Despite the disappointment in the Kung Fu Panda #1, I still can’t wait for Kung Fu Panda 2 to hit theaters May 26.