By Hervé St.Louis
September 23, 2006 - 19:55
Reaching in traditional Korean lore, O’Brien tells readers about Hong Kil Dong, whose conflicted parentage kept him from reaching the full extents of his skills, until he became the Robin Hood of Korea. This story explains in clear terms the differing class structure in classical Korea and much about its culture. Good honourable men were expected to serve the king. It was an honour that Kil Dong could not fulfil, because his noble father had birthed him with a servant.
Parents looking for suitable and original comic books for their kids will be satisfied with this story. It provides more than a didactic story without imagination, while staying within the confine of decency. What I like the most about O’Brien’s story is how she demonstrates the importance of working for the government from a Korean perspective. From a Western perspective, being a civil servant is not always a good thing. The private sector offers much better opportunities for skilled men. But here, lineage also influenced who could serve the government. Hence, O’Brien shows Kil Dong overcoming his hardships within the confines of Korean culture. It’s a magnificent way of explaining a foreign culture to kids and adults.
The artwork is inspired from Korean paintings which existed before Manwahs became the house style in Korea. It’s a good way to show to kids that there is more to Korean, and possibly Japan, than Mangas and bigeye characters with cross shading and zip tones.