An ambitious graphic novel takes on the life of Chinese American star Bruce Lee.
A twisting red dragon looms over the Golden Gate Bridge to mark Bruce Lee’s birth in San Francisco in 1940 before his family returns to Hong Kong soon after. Di Bartolo paints colorful, realistically styled panels, his account of Lee’s early life laced with frequent allusions to the Chinese zodiac. Concise narration and dialogue chronicle Lee’s experiences growing up in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation and his many street fights as an adolescent. He also has an early movie career and eventually studies Wing Chun Kung Fu under revered master Yip Man. A brief overview covers his adult life in Seattle and Oakland before Lee lands his first movie deal. Here Di Bartolo relates the storied fight between an adult Lee and martial artist Wong Jack Man in Oakland. It unfolds like a scene from a kung fu movie, initiated by racial tension, but is a cinematic if oft-retold departure from the less-dramatic reality of a combination of Lee’s confrontational personality, several messages about a challenge, and weeks of planning. While readers may gain insight to the early years of the martial artist, this artistic liberty adds dramatic flair but flattens the complexity of Lee’s character.
An entertaining but not entirely faithful account of the movie legend. (Graphic biography. 11-14)