Plot: In his quest to regain his family honor, our protagonist, Wenxiu, acquires a belt of living jade that allows him to fight to restore the heart of China and his own soul as Minister Jade.
Comments: While I like what Steve Bialik is trying to do with Minister Jade the story is plagued with inconsistencies that jarred me out of the suspension of disbelief and generally lowered the effectiveness of the story. The tone shifts between the various subplots from action to comedy and back without real concern about how they finally interconnect.
On the one side, we’re inundated with subplots involving Mooncake, the comic shipmaster; Bubu, the pimp; and Yuniang, Minister Jade’s entertainer girlfriend. On the other side, we have additional subplots involving family problems, the Khan, and the other antagonists (Wanyao Wang and his Midnight Lotus Society). The story would have been greatly strengthened if some of these subplots had been dropped in favor of developing just a few of the more significant threads that weave back into the main story.
The use of a Green Lantern-styled superhero in Ancient China, who spends as much time dealing with his own character issues as he does battling the antagonists, works very well in places. Unfortunately, Bialik spends too much time in exposition mode as he tells back stories of the different characters. While interesting, these expository passages destroyed the overall flow of the story.
Additionally, the use of modern slang and comic relief came across as inappropriate. The overall effect becomes that of a bloated story that could have definitely used an editor to trim its excesses.
I really enjoyed the color scheme and overall feel of the artwork for most of the book. I found the color choices for certain sections of the book, especially the flashbacks, indicative of period Chinese art--which increased the effectiveness of these sections. In other places, the art doesn’t work quite so well, particularly when perspective starts falling apart and the heads of people in the foreground become disproportionately large.
Final Word: Minister Justice is a far-from-perfect book, but it is an interesting study of a hero’s journey set against a different set of cultural values.
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