Boxers. By Gene Luen Yang. First Second, 2013. 325 pages.
Saints. By Gene Luen Yang. First Second, 2013. 170 pages.
Graphic novel companions Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, author of the Printz-award winning book American Born Chinese, offer two perspectives on the Boxer Rebellion of 1898.
Boxers, the longer of the two works, follows the life of Bao as he goes on a mission to preserve his religious heritage, using elements of fantasy to illustrate the connection between the Boxers, or kung-fu trained common folk, and their gods in a battle against Christianity. Extremely colorful, the illustrations in this volume accentuate both the powerful faith of these fighters but also highlight the violence which they impart.
In contrast, Saints follows the life of Four-Girl, a fourth and unwanted child, who at an early age becomes a Christian convert. While Boxers is fast-paced and the characters literally travel across China during the story, Saints is reads slowly and its protagonist settles into her identity from the moment her family refuses to name her. Saints is character-driven and its colors are muted except for Four-Girl’s visions of the historical figure Joan of Arc, in stark contrast to the vivid colors of Boxers.
As a pair, both Boxers and Saints create a thought-provoking reading experience for readers young and old, inspiring questions as to how history is made and how much it depends on point of view.