The graphic novels Boxer and Saints by Gene Luen Yang are historical fiction. And I must say, I’m really getting into these Graphic Novels!
While I have heard of the Boxer Rebellion, I don’t know much about it. Now I do. In the 1890s the Chinese public was becoming increasingly hostile to the “foreign devils” that they saw as invading their country. These Westerners were taking over land, converting temples to churches, and treating the common Chinese man cruelly. A group of Kung Fu trained men started a rebellion against these “foreign devils” and the “secondary devils”, Chinese Christians.
To tell the story we have Boxers, the story of Little Bao and how he becomes a “Boxer” and takes the fight to Peking to rid China of the foreign and secondary devils. These “Boxers” become possessed by the ancient Gods giving them the power they need to defeat their enemies. However, they are ruthless, killing anyone who stands in their way. The cost of ridding the country of the Westerners and their followers will be a steep one.
Saints tells the story of Four Girl, the fourth daughter born in a family, and the only child to survive. Her family treats her horribly, never giving her a proper name and calling her a devil. One day she meets a priest, and when she hears him called a “foreign devil” she thinks she’s found someone just like her. She begins to learn about Christianity and when she finds out she will get a name, she converts. Years later, she gets caught up in the conflict, but on the opposite side as Bao. She must make a choice, her faith or her people.
Bao and Four Girl cross paths twice during their lives, making their stories parallel tales of a time of rebellion and change. A story in two volumes. Both are moving and give insight into their sides, as well as giving us something to thing about. The style of the artwork was well done and in beautiful color images, but some are a bit graphic in terms of violence. If you are squemish at the site of blood, real, fake, or drawn, be warned.
This is the second GN from First Second Books I’ve read for the challenge and I look forward to seeing more from this publisher in the future.
I give it Three and a Half Lightsabers only because I think the death could have been done a bit more tastefully.