Sunday, February 03, 2008

Panda Khan Special #1

Panda Khan Special #1, August 1990, Abacus Press
writer: Monica Sharp
artist: Dave Garcia

Blogger's note: Entry for Saturday, February 2, 2008.

Like the stars of Friday's Mighty Mutanimals, Panda Khan is a character I've known only as an action figure for well over fifteen years. Since his armor is similar to Usaki Yojimbo's, I assumed that the characters were somewhat related, if not cosmetically, than perhaps conceptually. "Rabbit samurais look cool, so what other animals can we dress up? Hey, aren't pandas from China anyway?" Of course, now I know that, like Yojimbo, Panda Khan already had quite the established identity in his own independently published miniseries, The Chronicles of Panda Khan. From what I've been able to find on-line, this issue, Panda Khan Special #1, is the character's third and final appearance. Honestly, after reading it, I can understand why Khan has more staying power as a toy.

Dave Garcia's work boasts a lot of heart, but Panda Khan Special #1 also touts its own veritable vocabulary, one that requires more patience and investment than I'm willing to give any single issue. A front cover synopsis attempts to provide some definition and clarification, but my feable mind was quickly lost after the third reading of such sentences like, "As the years passed, Shibo continued his experiments while his nature grew more twisted, and the JIN1000 developed the personality of THE JINSHIN MUSHI, a legendary diety who taught the pandas their history and the worship of the SUPREME CREATOR, P'AN KU." Okay, maybe that sentence makes sense on its own, but imagine it wedged between similar statements, each introducing a different concept or character with peculiar pronunciations. Had I read the previous Panda Khan issues, perhaps I'd have an attachment to those pivotal plot points, but as a synopsis, it looks like Greek to me.

Still, mine is an opinion that shouldn't detract from the fact that Sharp and Garcia try to tell a very human story with their alien panda protagonists. At its basest level, the Panda Khan is essentially a tribal account of a benevolent leader going to great lengths to protect his people. Also, although their country inhabits an alien world, these talking pandas are not immune to mankind's greediness and are still on the run from poachers, which infuses the story with a smidgeon of political and environmental undertones. Still, when three of the youngest bears are cornered by the snarling hunters, a ninja star flies through the air and strikes one of them, and when Panda Khan appears to save the day, he . . . talks it out. Those fantastic elements summarized on the inside front cover somehow come into play, and for some reason, the humans cannot be mortally harmed. They are outnumbered, however, which is enough to assure an Ewok like celebration in the end.

Although I couldn't connect with this issue's story, I definitely enjoyed Dave Sim' art, which was expressive and effective considering his personified animal subjects. His ink stroke reminded me of John Byrne's for some reason; further, the series of supplemental Panda Khan pin-ups, including the likes of Sam Keith, Don Simpson, and Jim Valentino, was a welcome bonus.

Since I've begun this series of animal-oriented titles, I’ve acquired a few more, potentially obscure creature comic books that I’d love to review. Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, February warrants attention in other areas, so we'll have to wait until perhaps the rabbit-centric Easter or turkey-lovin' Thanksgiving to see the likes of Varmints or Oink: Heaven's Butcher. It should be worth the wait.


~ tOkKa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~ tOkKa said...

-->> Wanted to thank you for your guidance on this.

The mystery of Dave Garcia,Monica Sharp & P.K. i can finally put to rest.

Like you.. i've been so puzzled by that TMNT figure for so long.

Garcia worked on a number of TMNT Adventures projects in the early 90s so that was mostly the work i was familiar with of his.

Only P.K. stuff other than the goofy figure i had was some Zine and a Megaton Man comic with Flaming Carrot on it.. & P.K. having a tiny Cameo on that.

He has a few cameos like in Usagi Volume 1 and 'Equine the Uncivilized # 6 ' ( Talk about obscure ).

..the damm Wiki declares that he appeared in the original TMNT cartoon. But my friends say that is a lie. I'm not sure but i have no recollection of P.K. being in that toon.

anyway ..thanks for you're help and killer - fun blogg !! :)


oneiromorphe said...

Panda Khan appeared in a cross over with Usagi Yojimbo in UY vol 1 issue 35.

Dave Garcia also worked extensively on Archie Comic's TMNT line as the previous poster commented.

Further he was hired by New England Comics where he worked for several years on the Tick, Paul the Samurai, the Man Eating Cow, and the Marriage of Pop Eye and Olive Oil.

He is currently working on a supernatural western project as of Comic-Con 2008

~ tOkKa said...

-->> ..yeh it's right here, an ashcan he gave out last comic-con.

Shadow of the West : Legend of the Night Ranger



~ tOkKa said...

-->> ..tell ya what , the ash can he apparently is still shopping around, i guess.. i can go ahead and scan in the cover.

i was told to make time and read it.. something i've been putting off for months now.

Maybe after i scan the cover i'll make time to read it.