This issue kicks things off circa 600 BC in the “Western Regions.” Master Lao is travelling through the Western pass with his companion, The Black Tiger. They are on a quest to locate a young boy that will wield the power of The Blue Tiger and join their ranks. The only problem with this is that the boy in question is the slave property of a powerful, evil wizard with an even more powerful henchman to boot. Just as well that Master Lao is harder than a coffin nail and in no real danger from his foes. The story then shifts forward to present day where the team are seeking an ancient tablet hidden somewhere in the Kunlun Mountains in China. Needless to say that the team find the temple containing the tablet and things are not as simple as just walking out the door with it. Z-Girl has a vivid and disturbing vision that could shed light on her mysterious and elusive past. To say anymore about the story would spoil it for you so let’s take a look at the other aspects of the book.
With any comic, the art is always important and in this case, the artwork by co-creator Kirk Manley is super. The characters are well rendered and little text is needed to convey what they are thinking. All perspectives and panel placements are well thought out and the sequentials are very tight, smooth and the story free flowing. A lot of the action is allowed to bleed into other panels and this is effective and really expands on the scenes. I also really like the coloring, it has a really nice pencil crayon style which looks hand colored rather than digital. I think this adds some nice tone and warmth to the pages and stops it from looking sterile or too manufactured. The choices of colors are varied and context appropriate too. When something focal or important happens, the color is usually bright and vibrant which adds to the story telling and draws your eyes to it. Lettering is also good and serves its purpose well without getting in the way of the artwork. Text is easy to read and the placement is easy to follow. All in all, the visual elements all combine well to make a very pleasant reading experience.
The writing is very good. This story could have easily been a one dimensional mess but there is enough layering and character building to keep it interesting and engaging. The timeline and vision play works well and keeps things fresh. I like the way that when a vision is occurring, this isn’t spelt out and it’s not until afterwards that you realise what you saw never happened. This is effective and makes you want to read the book again. I don’t usually read these types of stories but with writing like this, I could be easily converted.
Overall I would say this is an interesting and original concept executed with skill, panache and flair. This is one series to check out and anyone that enjoys great comics should really enjoy it. You can visit the comic website (Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers) to find out more and order your copy today.