When I first saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the theater I decided two things: 1) I wanted to listen to the soundtrack album on CD, and 2) I wanted to read the series of novels upon which the movie was based. The first goal was easy to achieve, but the second was problematic because the novels had not (and have not, as far as I know) been translated into English. There was, however, a graphic novel series, published by HK Comics Limited, which had. The five books of the series (I-V) are adapted in the following volumes (1-12):
I. Crane Frightens KunLun [1-4]
II. Precious Sword, Golden Hairpin [5-8]
III. Sword Force, Pearl Shine [9-12]
IV. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [movie]
V. Iron Knight, Silver Vase [???]
I have been speaking recently (on "What Comics Have You Read Today?") about buying certain series on "faith", i.e, buying them without reading them with the intention of reading them all at once at a later date when I'm in the mood. (That "when I'm in the mood" point can be a stickler.) I've had these for 20 years and I'm finally in the mood. First, let's look at the credits.
Author: Andy Seto
Story: Wang Du Lu
Script Writer: So Man Sing
Wang Du Lu is the man who wrote the novels. If So Man Sing wrote the script, what is it exactly that Andy Seto does? Andy Seto is the artist. In every volume he provides a "diary" (or "editorial"). At one point, he laments having left so much "dialogue" ("plot"?) out of the adaptation of the first book (graphic novel volumes 1-4). [After the graphic novel series was completed, a second version of the adaptation of the first book (which I never saw) was released with the missing "dialogue".] From Seto's "diaries", I gather that he is working full script, and when he leaves out "dialogue", I take it that he is in full editorial control, and the decision of how much dialogue/plot to include in the breakdowns is his. I could be wrong, though; I'm just guessing.
The art includes colors never seen on the palette of an American comic book.
I'll bet Jack Kirby would have remained at Marvel had the credits read thusly:
Author: Jack Kirby
Script Writer: Stan Lee
...(which is not to diminish the contributions of either Stan Lee or So Man Sing).
I am already four volumes in (the equivalent of the first book) and I am beginning to question whether or not this series does indeed adapt all five novels. Volumes 5-8 comprise a "book" and so does 9-12, and that's all there is. I'll find out soon enough, then I plan to re-watch the movie. The early volumes in the graphic novel series each begin with a "relationship chart" (similar to a family tree) which details relationships such as friends, enemies, allies, siblings, spouses, partners and so on, which is extremely helpful. I find myself referring to it often.
The Story So Far:
Grand Yu and Long Ho were once friends but, six years prior to the beginning of the story, Yu accidentally killed Ho. Now Ho's children, his daughter Jeng and his two sons 2nd Tiger and 7th Tiger, hold Grand Yu responsible for their father's death, causing a feud between the families. Grand Yu's daughter is Yu Shu Lien, a skilled martial artist. Li Mu Bai is seeking a bride and is very particular. She must be smart and skilled in Kung Fu as well as beautiful. Mu Bai met Shu Lien just in time to witness her defeat the Ho family's raiders.
He is drawn to her, but soon learns that she has been promised in marriage to someone else. Mu Bai is engaged by Grand Yu to escort his daughter to Bau Ding to meet her future husband. On the way they are attacked by Phoenix Wei, and his band of raiders, and Mu Bai loses his Green Destiny sword. Phoenix Wei is the enemy of Yu Gan Cheung, the Golden Spear, who is also Jeng Ho's husband.
When Mu Bai catches up with Phoenix Wei they fight a duel and Mu Bai wins his sword back. Mu Bai and Wei become friends after that, and Mu Bai urges Wei to give up his raiding ways. We also meet Jade Fox, Phoenix Wei's partner, who has her own opinion on the matter. It is at that point that Golden Spear shows up and defeats Wei. Mu Bai steps in and uses a technique which turns Golden spear's own chi against him. Jade Fox reveals a riddle no one has ever solved which will reveal the location of the "Book of Sacred Forms" which will grant the owner mastery of Wudan martial arts.
"To get to the other side!"
Jeff of Earth-J said:
.Jade Fox reveals a riddle no one has ever solved which will reveal the location of the "Book of Sacred Forms" which will grant the owner mastery of Wudan martial arts.
Jade Fox steals the emperor's Flaming Pearl, bringing her into conflict with Nan Chiang, Li Mu Bia's teacher and her own brother-in-law. Jade Fox married the "Deaf Master" because she thought he would teach her the secrets of Wudan Kung Fu, but he did not. Now, with Brother Deaf on his death bed, she steals the Flaming Pearl to assure her own survival, but Nan Chiang defeats her and recovers the pearl. Returning to the monastery, Brother Deaf dies and Jade Fox tries to seduce Nan Chiang. He rejects her, but reveals that his former student Li Mu Bai is now his superior, anyway.
Among Brother Deaf's things, Jade Fox finds a copy of Wudan's Book of Sacred Forms containing all his secrets. She then poisons Nan Chiang and flees with the book. On his deathbed, Nan Chiang commands his students not to tell Li Mu Bai about how he met his death so that Mu Bai may concentrate on perfecting his own technique. Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai are already aware of Jade Fox by reputation, though, and decide to pursue her one their own.
Governor Yu is on a fox hunt. Among the party is his 10-year-old daughter, Jen Yu. She points out what she thinks is a fox hiding in a bush. Her father fires his bow and hits Jade Fox in the leg. Jade Fox is on the run from a band of raiders, but she says she was separated from her family and robbed. She then passes out (or perhaps she's faking). The raiders then appear and Governor Yu is wounded. the raiders set about killing Yu's men and raping Jen Yu and Jade Fox. Jade Fox recovers enough to attack the raiders with her superior skill. (She has been studying the techniques from the Book of Sacred Forms.) She manages to kill them all, except the leader, who is assaulting Jen Yu. They fight, but Jade Fox is both wounded and exhausted. Jen Yu attacks the raider leader from behind, giving Jade Fox the opening she needs to kill him. Jen Yu offers Jad Fox shelter at their home in exchange for teaching her Kung Fu. Jade Fox accepts the offer and Governor Yu agrees.
Wow, that sounds like it puts the "Graphic" in "Graphc novel".
It's really not all that explicit: that is, no nudity whatsoever although there was certainly the intention of rape. the scene was nowhere near as graphic as a typical sex scene in Lone Wolf & Cub. Jade Fox's tunic was ripped, but it exposed no more than Power Girl's typical "window." When Governor Yu's men went to put Jade Fox on a litter, Jen Yu said, "What are you looking at?" and covered her with a cloak.
Back at the governor's house at Xin Jiang, Jen Yu introduces Jade Fox (who she now refers to as "Elder Sister") to Long Gao, her teacher, and urges him to pretend that Jade Fox is his sister so that she will be allowed to stay. Jade Fox has other ideas, though. She seduces the unworldly and inexperienced Long Gao and becomes his wife. (At this point the depictions become somewhat more explicit.) Jade Fox is unable to read the Wudan Book of Sacred Forms. Up until this point, she has been following the illustrations. He agrees to teach her from the book.
Long Gao is forbidden from teaching Jen Yu, a girl, Kung Fu, but Jade Fox, a woman, can. All three begin practicing the forms together, but Jen Yu becomes frustrated that Long Gao is progressing at a faster rate than she is. He explains to her that it is his wish that Jade Fox give up Kung Fu altogether, so he has been holding certain techniques back from her. Because it is Jade Fox who has been training Jen Yu, she will never surpass Long Gao. Long Goa promises to teach her the correct technique if she agrees not to tell Jade Fox that he has been holding back knowledge.
Years pass. Jen Yu has grown into a beautiful young woman skilled in the art of Kung Fu. While crossing the Gobi Desert by wagon trying to outrun a sandstorm, Long Goa, Jade Fox and Jen Yu are attacked by the bandit "Dark Cloud" Lo and his men. Before anyone can stop her, Jen Yu leaps from the wagon and attacks the men singlehanded as the storm hits. Long Goa stops Jade Fox, who knows Jen Lu has surpassed her but doesn't know why. Jade Fox is effectively blinded by the storm, but Long Goa pictures it in his mind by listening. Jen Lu pursues the retreating bandits through the storm and nearly rides her horse off a cliff. She shouts a challenge to Dark Cloud Lo and a man appears.
The man leads Jen Yu across treacherous terrain to Dark Cloud's camp. As soon as they arrive, Jen Yu learns that the man himself is Dark Cloud. Her horse loses its footing and falls to its death, but Jen Yu survives. she challenges Dark Cloud to a dual. He agrees, setting the stakes: if he loses he will disband his gang of bandits, but if he wins Jen Yu must become his wife.
She transfers her chi to her sword and employs the "Sixiang Sword Tactics" which consists of four successive moves: soaring wood, sweeping swallow, dancing crane and stretching dragon. These moves are delivered in sequence, each becoming progressively more powerful than the one before. She wins and he lives up to his end of the bargain, but his gang is none too happy about it. She stays behind to watch him and his men depart.
Jen Yu learns from his servants that Dark Cloud hired them (not kidnapped them) and that he is a good man to work for. She trails him in order to learn mare about him. She finds him and he tells her that he would have eventually disbanded his gang of bandits himself, anyway. She tells him that she used the dust storm as cover to run away when she took off after him. They part, and she finds a pack of wild horses and meets a girl her age, skilled in horsemanship, from Manchu. They race, but Jen Yu is reckless and accidentally rides her horse off a cliff. She focuses her chi over her body to minimize the impact and save her life. She is found by Dark Cloud, who takes her to a cave where they make love.
Meanwhile, Governor Yu has learned of Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien by reputation and hires them to find his missing daughter. They have been searching for Yu Shu Lien's fiancé, Chou Mong, for 10 years and Li Mu Bai has fallen in love with her. She encourages him to stay in Xin Jiang because the opportunities are better, but re resolves that if they don't find Chou Mong soon, he will ask Yu Shu Lien to marry him. All the while they practice, a man watches them from a tree. He must be skilled in martial arts to go unnoticed.
Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien are still after Jade Fox for the murder of Nan Chang and the theft of the Wudan manual. When she finds out that Governor Yu has hired Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien to find Jen Yu, she confides in Long Gao, her husband and Jen Yu's teacher. When Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien arrive and are greeted by Governor Yu, Jade Fox disguises herself and hides a poisoned needle in Li Mu Bai's pillow, but she is unable to leave the apartments before Long Gao shows them to their rooms.
Suddenly, a cat squalls from the bedroom. It has been purposefully impaled on the poisoned needle by the man who watched Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien practice in the woods. He also leaves a note: "The killer is still in the house." They find Jade Fox but do not recognize her because she is in black robes from head to foot. Yu Shu Lien fights her to a draw, unable to figure out how she is using the Wudan style, but not quite correctly (because Long Gao held back certain techniques from her, remember). Li Mu Bai takes over and prepares to face off against Jade Fox.
Back in the desert, Jen Yu and Dark Cloud separate so that he can build a career. They vow tgo get married in 10 or 20 years time.
Jade Fox quickly realizes she is hopelessly outmatched by both Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien. She pretends to attack Governor Yu, and while everyone's attention is diverted, moves toward Long Gao instead. He recognizes her and pretends tp be held hostage so that she cam make her escape. Li Mu Bai attacks, but Long Gao "clumsily" gets in the way. (He pretends not to know Kung Fu, but Li Mu Bai is not fooled.) Jade Fox does escape, while the "mystery man" watches from a tree.
Later, at their rendezvous, Long Gao confides to Jade Fox that he's been holding out on her. She becomes angry, but later accepts his apology and they make love. If Li Mu Bai finds out that she killed his teacher, Nan Jiang, however, he will kill her, so she must flee. Sha asks Long Gao to make some excuse to Governor Yu. While Jade Fox is sitting at a roadside bar later, Jen Yu rides by on her way home. They get drunk on saki, and Jen Yu tells Jade Fox of her love for Dark Cloud. Despite the danger, Jen Yu convinces Jade Fox to return to her father's house with her.
Meanwhile, still suspicious of Long Gao's abilities, Li Mu Bai asks him if he can check his pulse. Li Mu Bai projects his chi into Long Gao's body, which should reveal whether or not Long Gao has any kung fu abilities of his own, but Long Gao is able to block his own chi from detection. Later, Li Mu Bai pretends to drop a vase, and Long Gao catches it in such a way that reveals that he does, in fact, know king fu after all. He admits that he does, and Li Mu Bai challenges him to a friendly dual.
Most of the rest of this volume is turned over to a step-by-step analysis of their fight, Li Mu Bai probing for Long Gao's ability and Long Gao trying to hide it. Long Gao manages to win the dual without revealing his knowledge of the Wudan technique. At this point, Jen Yu returns with Jade Fox. Long Gao tells Jen Yu that her ability is superior to Jade Fox's, but Jen Yu accuses him of holding back on her as well.
Meanwhile, Li Mu Bai is at a loss to understand how someone who supposedly doesn't know Wudan techniques can beat someone who does unless that person is only pretending not to know. the whole thing is setting up a rematch between Li Mu Bai and Long Gao.