A well-placed ampersand can imply many things: a fighting duo, a complimentary pair, or polarizing opposites. In the case of Boxers & Saints, the members of the Boxer Rebellion and their opponents, Westerners and Chinese Christians, retain all three elements in their interactions.
What is engrossing about this graphic novel diptych—the newest work from Gene Luen Yang of American-Born Chinese fame—is how intertwined the stories are, literally and thematically. This dynamic is presented in its bold and eye-catching box design. On one side, the aggressively commanding ghost of Ch’in Shin-Huang, the first emperor of China. On the other, the grim glowing figure of martyr Joan of Arc. Split between them are two young, wide-eyed faces of Little Bao and Vibiana. They stare out at the reader, serious and uncertain. Their expressions symbolize the heart of Boxers & Saints: a story that unpacks the anxieties of an unstable nation, and unflinchingly portrays the people who become swept up by the winds of history.
[They fought for China. Mild spoilers.]