A bit fat round-up of martial arts madness and seventies drive-in delirium, Kagan McLeod’s Infinite Kung Fu (Top Shelf Productions) is a massive 464-page graphic novel crammed full of chopsocky goodness. Set in an alternate Martial World, the sprawling epic centers on Yang Lei Kung, a low-level soldier in the wicked emperor’s army who is recruited by one of the Eight Immortals to become a “spiritual fighter.”
In the Martial World, we’re told, there are two main paths to mastery: the first, Poison Kung Fu, is efficient but corrupts its practitioners; the second, more enlightened path requires the student to take a long journey of self-discovery. In the book’s opener, we see two students — one of whom will become a major villain in the piece — fight zombies using the forbidden poison techniques; as a consequence, they’re left to fend for themselves as the army of undead grows more plentiful. As the first chapter ends with generation after generation of fighting corpses surrounding the twosome, the reader’s left thinking, “Maybe that ‘infinite’ in the book’s title isn’t an exaggeration, after all.”
As for our hero Lei Kung, he’s forced to un-learn his brutish soldier ways and advance in the emperor’s army at the same time. The ultimate goal of this is to stop the emperor from destroying the universe in his pursuit of ultimate power. Along the way, writer/artist McLeod introduces us a colorful crew of secondary characters. Foremost among these are Moog Joogular, a former funk guitarist who looks like he could’ve played for Parliament and who tells Lei Kung the first time they meet that he’s seen the student’s king moves in the future, and Windy, a tough girl general who strives to fight for right within the emperor’s army. Primary antagonist is Li Zhea, a second general who not incidentally was one of the two students we saw getting corrupted by Poison Kung Fu in the opener. With his porn star ‘stash and penchant for laughing long and villainously, you can readily imagine him commandeering an outdoor movie screen as his poorly dubbed laughter crackles through the speakers.
None too surprisingly, Infinite Kung Fu contains a ton of fights between human opponents, supernatural ones, and a squadron of robotic bronze statues. McLeod plays this genre mix-and-match relatively straight. Unlike more obvious seventies inspired send-ups (Greg Houston’s Vatican Hustle, for instance), McLeod lets the material stand for itself without falling back on excessive cartoonishness. Which is not to say his art is deadly serious: at times, there’s a sense of EC Era Jack Davis in his expressions and brushwork, which helps keep the artist’s tribute grounded in its comic book frame. In crafting the Infinite Kung Fu “movie” of his dreams, Kagan McLeod has created one entertaining slam-bang comic.