Kung Fu Panda: Art of Balance #1

Whetting the appetites of fans of Po, this book is well-timed, hitting stands before the sequel to the successful DreamWorks film and setting the pace for the comic book from Ape Entertainment's Kizoic line set to release around the same time. As a father who loves comics, I frequently struggle to find a comic that hits the sweet spot for my girls. They'll read anything dropped in front of them, but rare is the title not labeled "Tiny Titans" that will cause any of the three to sneak off to her own room for an uninterrupted read.

This book got two of them. My eight-year-old (going on twenty-three) thought the book was "really good." She was also surprised that the stories in the book were multiple adventures rather than one continuous adventure that expand the world of Po and the Furious Five. The middle daughter, the true-blue comic fan of the trio, enjoyed "how the book expanded the characters around Kung Fu Panda. It was fun to see Po serving noodles at his dad's restaurant again."

This book has a full-length lead story, three short stories and a collection of profile pages featuring the characters from the "Kung Fu Panda" world. Some of the stories slant to younger audiences directly, such as Quinn Johnson's "Touch of Destiny," but all the same, each story packs a little more for readers of all ages. Parents are going to see a much more treacherous tale in that "Touch" story and be pleasantly surprised by the final reveal.

The lead story is topnotch. The art by Dan Schoening is stylized and stunning, at once daring to be different from other art in comics today and simultaneously paying deep homage to the art from the featurette "Secrets of the Furious Five." Schoening has the privilege of dialing in on Po, Mr. Ping, and Master Shifu while introducing new characters that are smartly crafted by Matt Anderson. Kuo, a dastardly antelope with deviousness in his heart and plans in his head, fits the world of Kung Fu Panda.

Christine Larsen's art follows suit in the next story, which introduces another legend in the form of Master Ox. Dario Brizuela's story is more traditionally in line with comic art as is the final story of the issue, drawn by Chris Houghton.

The profile pages bring a few chuckles and round out this book into a nice package that is sure to tickle the Kung Fu fancy of most young readers. Ape Entertainment does a nice job setting up the property here and will follow this up with a Free Comic Book Day issue and a miniseries shortly after that.

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