Yeo Beop-Ryong and Park Hui-Jin’s Chronicles of the Cursed Sword 1-3

Yeo and Park’s first collection of Chronicles of the Cursed Sword contains the first three volumes of the original manhwa series. Like King of Hell, it’s a Korean action/adventure story with heavy supernatural overtones, this time involving not one but two magical swords, demons, spirits, and heroes. As is so often the case with me, I picked it up because I was captivated by the drawing. And being a boy, I do like adventure stories, particularly those with hunky warriors — and there are lots of hunky warriors in this one.

The story opens with some background on the period of the Warring States in Korea. (It seems like every civilization had a period of warring states.) Shiyan, Prime Minister to Moosungje of the Zhou Dynasty, has presented his king with the Pachun Sword, a weapon of remarkable powers. There is, however, another sword, equally powerful, but lost: the PaSa Sword, forged from the bones of the Demon King. Shiyan’s goal is to find the PaSa Sword and use it to bring the Demon King back to life. (Did I mention that Shiyan has connections with the demons of the Four Heavens?) It seems that the PaSa Sword is in the keeping of one Rey Yan, an orphan with no particular talents or abilities, who is traveling with his “big sister,” Shyao Lin, a sorceress of some accomplishment. Right off the bat, they rescue Jaryoon, King of Hahyun, from an attack by a demon warrior who claims Jaryoon’s brother, the Emperor, wants his head. And thus begin the adventures of Rey Yan and the PaSa Sword.

It’s a lot of fun, as action/adventure tales go. The trio have run-ins with outlaws, a powerful sorceress, and the rulers of the various quarters of the Four Heavens. The downside of Rey’s ownership of the Sword is that it is sentient, hungers for demon blood, and every time he uses it, it comes closer and closer to taking him over, which Shyao Lin is determined to prevent. By the end of part three, we’re well into the action and getting a good take on the characters and context. We’ve also had a glimpse of Rey’s early history, and a good look at the character of the Emperor, who’s a real piece of work.

Speaking of characters, they’re very well done, engaging and believable, even the evil Prime Minister (who does spend a certain amount of time gloating, but I found myself making allowances). Given the supernatural elements in the story, one willingly suspends disbelief, but the characters are still very real. The action is complex and engaging — writer Yeo Beop-Ryong has given us a good, absorbing story.

And now to the drawing. I love it. There’s a certain degree of stylization in the renderings, which suits the feel perfectly. Character designs are apt, ranging from some bishounen but very muscular warriors — Rey, Jaryoon, and the bandit chief Kouchien, who also winds up as part of their band — to the very voluptuous Sorceress of the Underworld, to the big-eyed, somewhat gawky Shyao Lin. There are the usual problems with dense images in action scenes, of which there are quite a few, but either I’m getting used to this or this one’s not quite so crowded as others have been.

I think one thing I liked particularly about this series is the costuming. It’s a period piece from the history of Korea, a culture with which I’m not all that familiar, and it was very interesting to see not only how characters of various stations are dressed, but the way in which the artist, Park Hui-Jin, has used those costumes to help establish an overall style for the drawing. It works beautifully.

(Tokyopop, 2003)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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