Friday, October 12, 2012

Review of the graphic novel, Pearl of Pandaria

WoW week continues through this week, and today I review the latest graphic novel from Blizzard, Pearl of Pandaria (PoP).  Before I continue however, time for the usual


Spoilers ahead!  If you haven't read Pearl of Pandaria and don't want what's in it spoiled for you, then STOP READING NOW!   You have been warned!


PoP is about a young pandaren girl named Li Li, who by my best guess, is roughly the equivalent of 12 in human years.  Pandaren are panda-like creatures who in WoW have a culture and architecture that is very much like the Oriental culture of our Earth.  Pandaren originally came from a continent called Pandaria, but in PoP, the story actually takes place atop a very, very large turtle named Shen-zin Su, or The Wandering Isle.  Yes, this turtle is so large that he is literally an island to himself!  He's also immensely old, over 10,000 years.  As you might imagine, a little back story is needed here.

Shen-zin Su started out as a regular-sized turtle and the beast of burden for Liu Lang, an ancient pandaren that left Pandaria for the lands across the ocean - namely, the rest of Azeroth.  Over the years, Shen-zin Su grew and grew and grew.  Liu Lang returned to Pandaria from time to time, but one day, he left with his wife Shinizi and assorted other pandaren and never came back.  Over the centuries, Shen-zin Su grew to enormous size - so large that the descendents of Liu Lang and the others grew on his back, and have lived there for generations as he grew to island size.  He had been gone from Pandaria for so long that the continent was little more than a myth to these pandaren inhabitants.

The Wandering Isle has a famous son named Chen Stormstout.  He's so famous that he's even known in the rest of Azeorth (except in Pandaria, of course).  Chen is known as an explorer and adventurer who left the Wandering Isle in search of adventure and new booze.  Yeah, he's a bit of a lush....  While he wandered Azeroth, he wrote letters to his niece Li Li who read each letter as Chen described his adventures in the lands across the sea. These letters inspired Li Li to want to go out to explore the world as well, but her father forbade it, because the rest of the world is dangerous; especially to a young girl like her.

But her desire to explore the world and to find her famous uncle Chen is so strong that she sneaked away by flying on a large crane and trying to find her way around the rest of Azeroth by following the letters from her Uncle Chen.  Her father finds out and asked Strongbo, one of the pandaren trainers, to go find her and bring her back.  As it turns out, she's a sneaky and clever little creature, and she managed to talk her way into staying on the continent longer and longer.

Long story short, the unlikely pair wander to different parts of the Eastern Kingdoms; the whole time with Strongbo trying to get Li Li to return home.  Unknown to them, they are followed by a naga, a goblin, an ogre, and a fel orc with a burning desire to defeat the one opponent who has managed to defeat him in combat.  Yep, you guessed it - it was the famous Chen Stormstout!  The fel orc is hoping that these pandaren will lead him to Chen, while the other three are out for a very large magic pearl, the Pearl of Pandaria.  Li Li and Strongbo have no knowledge of this pearl, but the naga thinks otherwise, and they follow Li Li and Strongbo wherever they go. 

After some adventuring in Stormwind and Ironforge, the tale ends in a final confrontation between Strongbo and the fel orc.  The orc manages to fatally wound Strongbo by cheating, but Chen finally shows up to save the day.  It is Strongbo, however, who deals the killing blow to the orc before he himself expires.  Chen then takes his niece back to the Wandering Isle, and the book ends there, but is continued on WoW's website.  Here is a link to the first part (of four) if you want to follow the continuation of the story. 

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and the artwork is beautiful.  This book is printed in a horizontal format instead of the usual vertical format, which is a nice little change to the standard comic book.  If you are already into WoW lore as I am, then you'll really enjoy this book.  My only complaint is that Li Li is a bit disrespectful and insensitive towards the feelings of others - but then she is about 12 years old, and who among us wasn't that way around that age?  In this story, you have basically a rebel story in which one person wants to do things differently than what is usually done in X culture.  

Like the citizens of Gilneas, the citizens of Shen-zin su (and later, the citizens of Pandaria) are very insular; that is, they very much keep to themselves.  While the Gilneans built a wall around themselves, the citizens of Shen-zin su were isolated by the fact that the giant turtle they lived on basically just wandered the oceans of Azeroth - and apparently, never made landfall with any continents in that whole time!  Pandaria was surrounded by an impenetrable mist for 10,000 years, which explains their insularity.  The mist was broken up by the events of the Cataclysm, but I'll get more into that when I discuss my adventures in WoW (I'm waiting until my pandaren toon has to make the choice between Horde and Alliance before I discuss my adventures on my blog.  She'll go Horde, of course!).

In summary, I enjoyed the story mainly for its depictions of some of the cities of Azeroth, and for showing the festival Brewfest while it was going on!  Whoohoo!!!  (Actually, Hallow's End is my favorite WoW holiday).  It was nicely done, and I wish Blizz would get on the stick and put out more comics and graphic novels.  On a scale of 1 to 10 in which 1 is a bomb and 10 is THE bomb, I give PoP an 8.5, but I fully admit that it's getting that score because I love WoW lore already.

Coming soon, as soon as I get my little pandaren to level 10 where she can decide which faction to join, I'll post about her adventures on the Wandering Isle.  So far I'm enjoying it; especially the fact that it's free!  LOL

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