BOXERS & SAINTS is the new two-volume graphic novel set by award-winning artist/writer Gene Luen Yang. In these slip-cased books, we see two very different sides of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
China, on the cusp of the 20th century, faced challenges from many sides. Severe drought brought widespread starvation and poverty. The growing influences of western culture led to the uprising of the violent Righteous Harmony Society, aiming to repel and eradicate the influence of foreign imperialists and Christian missionaries.
In BOXERS, we get the tale of Little Bao, a peasant who witnesses life-changing and culture-changing forced on the Chinese by imperialists from the West. These foreigners bring not only their brute force but also their “devil” religion, leading Bao to join and then lead a new and violent uprising called the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. Inspired by Chinese gods and colorful characters from the opera he loves, Bao’s band of nationalists ultimately lead to the center of the battle and destiny awaiting in Peking.
In SAINTS, we meet Four-Girl (also known as “Death-Girl”) who is an outcast in her own home village, leading her to the Christian missionaries who take her in amidst the growing Rebellion. Taking the name Vibiana, hers is a quest for the soul as she decides whether to abandon her past and embrace her future by committing herself to the Christian religion of the foreigners.
Since his break-out hit graphic novel AMERICAN BORN CHINESE seven years ago, Gene Luen Yang has been consumed by researching, writing and drawing BOXERS & SAINTS. While each of the volumes can be read and enjoyed separately, the powerful combination of both cannot be over-stated. BOXERS & SAINTS not only fleshes out the different sides of a troubling point in world history, but it’s apparent that Yang’s own family history is a subtle back-drop to the entire epic.
BOXERS & SAINTS may even be considered a prequel to AMERICAN BORN CHINESE... and given ABC’s deservedly respected place in the graphic novel world, it’s time to make room on the bookshelf for this new and thoroughly thought-provoking two-volume set.