The Chronicles of Panda Khan: Chapter 1 – Monica Sharp

2 out of 5

I can appreciate an enthusiastic Kickstartered comic, and artist Dave Garcia’s loose and chunky art is rather charming, but alas, this first issue of Panda Khan’s collected Chronicles – a colorized, reprinted edition of the anthropomorphic panda character’s first comic, a backup from an Usagi Yojimbo issue, and a new story about evil goat Ba Fo – is a lot of cart before horse storytelling. Combined with some unfortunate typos, it’s cute, and, as mentioned, has some undeniable energy and effort behind it, but it’s not necessarily interesting, and comes across as a little amateurish.

In the reprinted Panda Khan issue, the main roadblock here is the excess of world-building that’s been placed before reader comprehension. There’s no sense of who the main character / characters are, and we’re dumped right in to some kind of conspiracy to upset the panda planet – Da Tu – without any grounding on how this universe works. You can tell that writer Monica Sharp has a lot of cool ideas to get to, but in order to get there, we’ve had all of the lore details dumped on us, starting off with a flashback that apparently explains the evolution of Da Tu, but without actually clarifying that that’s what it’s about, or it’s place in the chronology. In the present, Da Tu faces an invasion from the demonic Lord Shibo due to some past grievance, amidst the panda clan – led by, er, Panda Khan – discussing their yearly warriors’ pilgrimage, known as Tien Ch’Mein. Too many odd, unmemorable names are mentioned, stacking alongside a bevy of terminology, and the story lacks the rhythm to sell the threat of the invasion. Garcia’s art is fun, and brightly colored by Mickey Clausen, but here we still face a missing distinctiveness that separates one character from another. All of the front loading does, admittedly, leave us at an interesting enough cliffhanger, in which some young pandas discover that their culture’s mythology were hiding the secrets of the reality of the matter…

The reprinted backup story from Usagi, Dragon’s Hide, is more fun due to its self-contained focus, though it’s still rough around the edges and has some of the same clutter issues (too many names, too many concepts), despite its length. And here Clausen’s digital coloring tries to get a bit too flashy, some lighting effects especially distracting. Regardless – it can surely be said that a lack of ideas and background isn’t this series’ problem.

The new story, Ba Fo, is pretty goofy, but it’s at least wholly linear – it seems to tell the origin of the titular Ba Fo’s turning from a calmly shepherd into some kind of evil, over-powered goat dude, and it has a kind of left-field energy that sustains it through its few pages.