So I was really pleased to see this new series from JR Comics. Their website has almost no information at all, but the introductory text in my preview copy suggests that these were published in China last year, and were conferred with some kind of official government seal of cultural approval. (For all I know it's the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal, but it kind of strikes me more as a government's blessing that the stories provide a positive cultural representation of China.)
Now here's where I start getting confused. The previews I got showed Volume 1 would come out in early September and Volume 2 would be a week later. A cross-sell page in the back shows 20 volumes in all. The website shows the same 20 volumes, but provides no release dates at all. No news of any kind, for that matter. Meanwhile, the Amazon lists say all 20 books have been in stock since January 1 and an interview I read with the publisher says they've been available since last November. So I have no idea if they're actually available or not right now.
Confusion point 2. Here's a two page spread from Volume 2...
Confusion point 3. Their website. Seriously, why bother with one at all if you're not going to put a single piece of information (not even a link!) about how/where a reader might buy these books? There's also no mention at all of any of their other titles: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber. Add in zero navigation back to the site once you're in any of the previews, and this just makes no sense.
Now, that said, I am still interested in these books. Primarily for the character. The first two volumes do read well (despite the fonts) but they are very admittedly written for a Chinese audience. I think someone unfamiliar with Chinese story style and structure might be put off a bit by this. It's definitely not Japanese or Korean, so it might not click for fans of manga or manhwa either. But if you did see Sun Wukong pop up in Iron Man recently and wonder what the hell he's all about, this story will definitely provide you with that background.
I've only seen the first two volumes, as I said, but it appears the series will recount all of the Monkey King's tales from Journey to the West. The storytelling does strike me as very reminiscent of the legends as I've heard them, and I would like to pick these all up to see the full story illustrated.
Wei Dong Chen and Chao Peng do a great job writing and drawing the story; I just wish the publisher left me scratching my head over its publication.