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Boxers by Gene Luen Yang


by Gene Luen Yang

Other authors: Lark Pien (Colorist)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Boxers & Saints

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BOXERS provides a much fuller picture of the events in China in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Little Bao and the others learn kung-fu from Red Lantern, and Bao, the youngest of his brothers, becomes the leader of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, with a mission of freeing China from "foreign devils." When they fight, all of the Brother-Disciples take the form of Chinese gods depicted in opera; Bao's form is not a god, but the first Emperor of China.

Bao believes in his mission wholeheartedly - in a way that Vibiana, in SAINTS, never quite believes in the precepts of Christianity - but encounters moments of doubt when he is not sure who to trust or who is right. One of the Edicts is to have compassion for the weak, but the first emperor of China tells Bao that to show mercy is a mistake.

The two books together, BOXERS and SAINTS, show how easily a conflict escalates when neither side tries to understand, communicate, or compromise with the other. Every action becomes a reaction, revenge for hurt inflicted.


"Good people, you're all free now. The foreign devils are all dead. Go home in peace. [...] What's wrong with you all?! Go home!"
"Bao...they're Christians. The foreign devils weren't kidnapping them, they were helping them escape. From us." [Moment of realization.] (188)

[No text, three panels; third panel depicts Christians kneeling, Brother-Disciple and Imperial soldier about to execute them] (294)

"You have to understand, Mei-wen-- I did it for China."
"For China?! What is China but a people and their stories?" (312) ( )
  JennyArch | Jun 29, 2014 |
Boxers and Saints, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel set about the Boxer Rebellion in China told from the perspective of a young man who becomes a rebel leader and a young woman who converts to Christianity and stands against the rebellion. I loved Boxers, but was less enamored with Saints. Boxers felt like a full story, showing the history of foreign colonial contact with the Chinese and fleshing out motivations for its characters. I loved the artwork, especially the Chinese gods that the rebels envisioned themselves transforming into; I also loved the author's decision to depict all foreign speech in meaningless scribble while the Chinese dialogue was written in English. This heightened the reader's identification with the Chinese rebel perspective because like the Chinese villagers, the reader literally has no idea what the foreign missionaries and soldiers are saying and must judge them solely based on their actions.

Saints, which is about 1/3 the size of Boxers, definitely felt like a sidenote. It focuses on a girl who is unwanted, called a devil, vows to be the most devilish devil she can be, and decides that aligning herself with the so-called "foreign devils" by converting to Christianity is the most evil thing she can do. Unlike the main character in Boxers, who rises to the status of prominent rebel leader fairly quickly, she struggles throughout her book to find a purpose and seems like a bystander in her own story. This might have been intentional, as Yang in both books draws attention to the male warrior's fear of contamination by women - whose "Yin" will weaken their fighting spirit - and their attitudes that women can't really contribute in a meaningful way to society. But the female character's general listlessness, combined with the shorter narrative, made this perspective feel like more of an afterthought to the "real" story presented in Boxers. I am posting the combined review on the bookpages for both volumes, because they are intended to be read as a set. ( )
  fannyprice | Jun 15, 2014 |
Boxers & Saints is a set of graphic companion novels. The story centers on the Boxer Rebellion in China, and anti-foreigner and anti-Christian movement from 1898 and 1900. Both books feature the same fantastic art by Yang, backed up with interesting characters and strong storylines. I liked, too, how the author indicated the white foreigner's language in Chinese characters (or what appear to be Chinese characters), so that as English language readers we can share the sense of incomprehension when the foreigners speak.

In Boxers, Little Bao learns martial arts and calls upon the spirits of ancient Chinese gods to give him strength in order to rise up with an army of Boxers to fight off and free China from the foreign devils that oppress the country. As the violence begins to grow and Little Bao is forced to break the moral edicts he vowed to follow, he begins to question whether he is truely following the right path.

In Saints, the main character is a fourth and unwanted child, who does not even have a name. Called Fourth-Child by her family, she eventually finds a name, Vibiana, and a place for herself among the Christian community. As the Boxer rebellion grows, she has to decide whether to hold onto the community that has accepted her or join her countrymen in defending China.

Both storylines present a moral ambiguity to the events, the subtle questioning of what is really the right path and whether China can really be made whole through battle. Both also contain supernatural elements, with the Chinese gods appearing to Little Bao and the spirit of not-yet-sainted Joan of Arc appearing to Vibiana. Both work fairly well as stand alone stories, but reading them together is a much more complete and enjoyable experience. ( )
  andreablythe | May 21, 2014 |
In Boxers, Bao is mistreated and neglected by his brothers until conflict with both "foreign devils" and "secondary devils" (Chinese converts to Christianity) leads Bao to train in martial arts, and eventually lead his brothers and the members of The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists in rebellion. In Saints, Four-Girl's story runs parallel to Bao's. Also a mistreated and unwanted child, Four-Girl yearns for basic recognition and a real name, and eventually finds the belonging she desires in Christianity. Bao and Four-Girl cross paths innocently as children, but find themselves on opposite sides of a war by the time they are teens, with tragic results.
The art of Boxers and Saints is very much in Yang's style, it is an extremely clean and almost minimalist at times, but highly expressive. His use of colour to contrast the mundane from the supernatural is excellent, and minor characters are drawn with as much personality as the protagonists. Architecture and landscapes are simple but appropriate and well-done as well.
Read the rest of my review here: http://thevegbrarian.blogspot.ca/2014/05/boxers-saints-by-gene-luen-yang-book.ht... ( )
  leahdawn | May 13, 2014 |
It took me until the very end of this comic to understand the title. It took my husband two seconds. World history was never my strong suit. In fact, I really dislike history and historical fiction. Congratulations Gene Yang!! You have educated me about the Boxer rebellion in a wonderfully told graphic novel! ( )
  WickedWoWestwood | Feb 15, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gene Luen Yangprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pien, LarkColoristsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steen, RobDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Venable, Colleen AFCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to the Original Art Night Crew
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Spring is my favorite time of year.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In 1898 China, Little Bao has had enough of foreign missionaries and soldiers robbing peasants, and he recruits an army of Boxers to fight to free China from its oppressors.

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