Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
  |     review    |     availability     |


Softcover Graphic Novel
Published by ComicsOne
128 pages
$16.95 US

Year: 2004 (originally published in Hong Kong 2003)
Writer: Ma Wing-Shing
Writer: Ma Wing-Shing
Translator: Zhao Yun
Editors: Shawn Sanders, Kevin P. Croall, Angel Cheng, Duncan Cameron
The Skinny: The creator of Storm Riders successfully adapts Zhang Yimou's Oscar-nominated epic in graphic novel form. Thanks to some stellar artwork from Ma Wing-Shing as well as a new ending that differs significantly from the cinematic version, Hero is one movie tie-in worth picking up.
Review by Calvin McMillin: 

     Generally speaking, American comic book adaptations of major motion pictures tend to be less compelling than the films they're based on. It's not so much an issue of something getting lost in translation; the problem occurs simply due to the talent—or sometimes the lack of talent—involved. Exceptions do occur, but for the most part American comic book editors rarely assign the artwork duties for movie tie-ins to their A-list talent. Not surprisingly, this results in a final product that is by and large inferior to its cinematic counterpart.
     Thankfully, this is NOT the case with Ma Wing-Shing's excellent adaptation of Hero, Zhang Yimou's famed 2002 martial arts epic. Granted, the limitations of the medium prevent this version from surpassing the dizzying heights achieved by its Oscar-nominated predecessor, but Mr. Ma's amazing artwork coupled with his addition of an all-new alternate ending give the work a relevance that most comic book adaptations fail to possess.
     For the most part, Ma's version follows the Rashomon-like plot of the film fairly closely. Set during the Warring States Period of China's history, the comic centers on a black-clad swordsman known only as Nameless, who has apparently defeated three assassins who conspired to kill the King of Qin. Bearing the weapons of Broken Sword, Flying Snow, and Sky, Nameless's heroic deeds have won him an audience with the King. During their meeting, Nameless reveals how he defeated the King's enemies by preying on their all-too human frailties.
     However, the King finds fault with the certain aspects of the story, believing them to be inconsistent with the upstanding character that he knows his enemies possessed. The King then hypothesizes an alternate version of the story, believing Nameless to be in collusion with Sky, Broken Sword, and Flying Snow. But this version, too, is not the whole truth, which Nameless reveals to the King thereafter. The King's reaction to this story proves to be the turning point of the narrative. The climax of Hero posits a theory on the essence of true heroism—and its effect on Nameless, the King of Qin, and the dream of uniting "All Under Heaven" is no less controversial than what was depicted in Zhang's film.
     For some, the idea of buying a comic book adaptation of a film might seem redundant. Why buy a comic book of a movie I've already seen (or perhaps own)? For this reviewer, the artwork is the main draw. There are so many beautifully rendered images (including quite a few "splash pages" worthy of poster art) within this book to pique even the most jaded Hong Kong film fan's interest. And not constrained by the limitations of actor's physical appearance, artist Ma Wing-Shing is able to use the medium of comics in such a way to make the film's characters (Nameless in particular) look all the more iconic.
     As mentioned earlier, the comic book adaptation contains an alternate ending that differs sharply from the film version. This narrative decision gives the comic book an added value for those already familiar with the story, and allows the characters to experience a far happier fate than the one doled out to their filmic counterparts. The new ending deflates whatever poetic resonance achieved in the film's finale, but in itself, this alternate interpretation makes for an interesting read if nothing else.
     Certainly, reading the comic book is in no way a substitute for seeing the film. But for fans of Hero, the graphic novel provides an interesting supplement to the movie experience. The outcome of the film makes any talk of a true sequel virtually impossible. Thankfully, Ma Wing Shing's adaptation gives readers chance to step back into Hero's visually stunning world one more time. (Sanjuro 2004)

image courtesy of DC Comics Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen