Kagan McLeod's new graphic novel Infinite Kung Fu seemingly occupies the nexus of every martial arts film ever made. There are hyper-stylized wuxia techniques, unbeatable Shaolin monks (and their giant training robots), and a town out of a 1970s blaxploitation flick anachronistically plopped down in an ancient China overrun by the walking dead.
It's all bonkers, but within its tapestry of fists and forbidden arts is an immensely readable fantasy tale. If you like your martial arts à la RZA or with giant flying peaches, this should be your huckleberry.
McLeod — who's made a name for himself doing magazine illustration — has finally collected and appended the scattered issues of the Infinite Kung Fu comic series in this single volume from Top Shelf Productions.
The story here is as simple as it is tortuous — the spirits of the dead are entering corpses and the remaining students of the Eight Immortal kung fu masters have all been corrupted by the forbidden Poison Arts and have pledged allegiances to the evil Emperor.
The Immortals' last hope is Yang Lei Kung, a soldier who accidentally becomes the disciple of the immortal chief Chuang Li Ch'uan. Lei Kung finds Ch'uan's body on an icy mountain and cremates him — it turns out that Ch'uan had just been meditating for nine years, and his spirit comes back to haunt/teach/yell at Lei Kung for burning him mid-enlightenment.
From there, McLeod uses Lei Kung's training as the reader's entry point to this trippy dimension, where kung fu is so powerful it grants immortality, regeneration, and just about every damn superpower under the sun. McLeod illustrates this in world in handsome grayscale brush strokes that make each masters' increasingly absurd techniques look splendiferous. And if you need a primer on the book's various crazy techniques, there's a 250-page preview online.
Infinite Kung Fu may not always make a ton of sense, but A.) neither do some of the most watchable martial arts films; and B.) this book always look exquisite. With its wholesale zombie slaughter (that never come across as played out), slapstick fight scenes, and deranged roster of martial artists, Infinite Kung Fu gets three crane kicks out of six poison centipede punches.