Outlaws of the Marsh brings to comic form one of the four great works of Chinese Literature. Also known as Water Margin, it’s a story about selfishness and greed as well as the downfall of a ruling dynasty.
There are many volumes to this series; since it starts a huge epic story, we’re going to have a lot of story to cover and it’s going to feel very rambling in the beginning. For this first volume, we are introduced to three main characters: a hunted grand marshall fleeing the wrath of usurper Qiu Gao, Jin Shi (also known as Nine Dragons for his tattoos), and Da Lu, a weak man who gives in to his indulgences.
At first, their paths only cross briefly. But as the story carries on in further volumes, we will watch their lives change as they find their own battles in medieval China.
Outlaws of the Marsh stays true to Chinese Manhua aesthetics. The illustrations are clean and in full color. As well, there is historical background presented and summaries before each chapter. While not as useful in the first volume, you’ll definitely be glad they are there as the story gets more complicated.
I’ve read Chinese martial arts manga for thirty years and have a soft spot in my heart for them. Of note, this title is faithful to the literature; as such, it’s not about the battles or martial arts but rather about the frailty of the people and the happenings of that era.
Reviewed from an ARC.