Created by Robert Alter
Written by Marc Andreyko
Illustrated by Micah Kaneshiro
Lettered by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Retelling classic fairy-tales has become a common occurrence in cinema in recent years. They have been criticised for their lack of originality and unadventurous storylines, so you would not be blamed for approaching this series with a certain amount of trepidation. However, the creative team manage to take a story that you think you know and put it into an entirely different setting.
This first issue introduces Mulan in the year 500BC as a magnificent warrior fighting in an enormous battle against an enemy known only as "The Hybrids." As soon as it becomes clear to her allies and masters that the battle is lost, she is temporally displaced by them to continue the battle at a more opportune time. By introducing the character into a familiar scene and then immediately tearing her away from it, the reader has a chance to gain an appreciation for the context of the story while still keeping the story as fresh as possible.
Mulan can be added to the rapidly growing list of strong female protagonists in comics. While this is a fantastic expansion of the medium, some character introductions have been more successful than others. True equality comes when the character's gender isn't an important part of the story being told. In both the script from Andreyko and the art from Kaneshiro, she is never objectified and the focus is entirely on her achievements and capabilities.
Mulan isn't afraid to assert herself in any situation that she finds herself in and takes complete control of the path she wants her life to take. The character has a realistic and complex past and we've begun to get a hint at what drives her. It's remarkable to see that her prowess hasn't stunted her compassion for others; this presents her as an extremely likeable protagonist.
This issue begins in an ancient Chinese war and quickly transitions to an enormous and technologically advanced world. Kaneshiro's art looks phenomenal in each scene and he gets to show what he's truly capable of; the colouring has a painted aspect to it that highlights the beauty of the art even further. By limiting heavy inking and bright colouring to the main characters, Kaneshiro guides the reader's eye with masterful skill. The other characters are still visible but manage to fade into the background and are prevented from stealing focus.
A common complaint of highly detailed art like Kaneshiro's is how static each panel can seem. While there are definitely times within this story where it lacks the dynamic flow that comics require, it manages to pull it off reasonably effectively. It's worth noting that in the more action-oriented scenes, the motion is always clear even if it does sometimes feel like you're looking at a fixed image.
Even after following her around for the entire issue, Mulan remains something of an enigma. It is unclear how much of her history and destiny she is aware of which is a very interesting creative decision. Along with that, Mulan's supporting cast each get a small scene introducing them to the reader and lets us know what their relationship is to Mulan. With a lot of potential, it's going to be great to see the part that each of them has to play in the months to come.
The first section of this book feels extremely fast paced even though it takes up a third of the entire book. The remainder of the book follows Mulan around in her new life and feels like a far more substantial section of story. This world building is presented in a way that makes it feel as though you're following Mulan about on a regular day and gives a great insight into how the world works. However, the amount of story progression could be argued to be a little bit slow which is not uncommon when a status-quo is being set up.
Through the use of both sections of story, we get introduced to the series antagonists and get hints at both their longevity and ability to manipulate everything from behind the scenes. Even though their motivations are currently ambiguous, Alter and Andreyko hint at their end goal and what they are trying to get from Mulan.
This issue marks an extremely promising start to this redefinition of Mulan in the context of a futuristic world. Her confidence and kindness are both infectious and endearing. Alter and Andreyko have created a fascinating mystery with The Hybrids and, as they begin to make their move, their motivations will hopefully become clear. While this chapter didn't charge ahead with the story, it has laid a strong foundation to build upon in the rest of this miniseries as Mulan's journey really kicks into high gear.