Monkey Prince #1 Review: A Delightful New Hero Comes to Gotham

There are challenges to introducing new characters into a long-established universe, and even more challenges when you bring those characters into perhaps one of the most iconic locations within said universe, a location where the big name hero is (for better or for worse) at the center of everything. Add to that a new character whose story is steeped in rich cultural history that is, for some, unfamiliar, and it might seem like a recipe for disaster. But with Monkey Prince #1, writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Bernard Chang not only deliver a fresh and engaging new hero who is utterly unique but integrates them beautifully into Batman's Gotham City in a way that is natural, exciting, and at times hilarious.

Monkey Prince #1 introduces us to Marcus Sun, a young man who has spent much of his life doing a lot of moving around thanks to his parents' rather interesting career choice. It's his parents' careers that see Marcus traumatized as a child when Gotham's protector shows up in their home to deal with his parents. In a sense, that is Marcus' real origin as its the impact of that night that leads him to a series of events in high school that sees him transformed into the Monkey Prince, heir to the powers of the mythological Monkey King.

It is, on the whole, a really fascinating story and one with an easy threshold of entry for fans unfamiliar with the story of the Monkey King. One of the things that Yang does brilliantly is his integration of the familiar elements of DC Comics, especially Batman's corner of it, with the potentially less familiar elements of the Monkey King's story. With how Yang presents things, you don't need be particularly familiar with the Monkey King to understand what happens to Marcus or be interested in it, but if you are, it's a truly special treat. There's also a lot of fun with the comic's tone and how Yang balances the seriousness of Marcus' trauma and experiences and the absolute bonkers and wild ride that is his transformation to the Monkey Prince. That said, it's the shift between the tones that causes a stumble. A lot happens very quickly in Monkey Prince #1 and the personality shift between Marcus and Monkey Prince is sharp; sharp enough that the reader might think they've missed something when they have not.

In regards to the artwork, this issue is beautiful. Chang, along with Sebastian Cheng's colors, create a world that is both very Gotham when it needs to be, but also very elevated and bright. The use of reds and golds in particular give the issue a very "alive" sense to it. There's also a section where the story runs up and down where you have to tilt your head to read it from right to left that is just brilliant in terms of execution and visual. The overall result, art-wise, is a book that is wildly unique and feels very fresh and fun.

Overall, Monkey Prince #1 is a very good comic. It combines the familiar with a lore and mythology that is, for many less familiar to deliver something fresh and new. The only real hiccup is that the pacing and some of the characterization feels somewhat off or unrefined in places. Even with that, the art makes the entire read worthwhile and sets up Monkey Prince as a story you won't want to miss.

Published by DC Comics

On February 1, 2022

Written by Gene Luen Yang

Art by Bernard Chang

Colors by Sebastian Cheng

Letters by Janice Chiang

Art by Bernard Chang and Sebastian Cheng