|DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU No. 3, September 2014|
Best known for his cover art on numerous titles, Dave “The Reverend” Johnson continues to prove somewhat hit’n’miss with his artwork on “Deadly Hands of Kung Fu”. Though apart from the bizarre greenish hued colouring making Shang-Chi simply look like Doctor Bruce Banner mid-way through his transformation into the incredible Hulk, there isn’t anything especially wrong with this edition’s front page illustration.
However it did make me momentarily rethink that perhaps the interior pencils of Tan Eng Huat weren’t all that bad. A few pages into the comic I quickly changed my mind back, especially as Johnson’s superb cover for the first issue is reutilised almost in full as part of the book’s opening recap; providing an excellent opportunity to compare the officially ordained Methodist Deacon’s artwork with that of Huat.
Certainly there is something distinctly unnatural with some of the poses the 2002 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards winner creates for both Shang-Chi and his opponents in this book. This is especially noticeable in the larger panels or crowd scenes, where some of the White Dragon’s henchmen are 'cursed' with the incredible arm length of an orang-utan. The pencil work suggesting the motion of Fu Manchu’s son frog-hopping from one minion’s head to another also brings a ridiculous new meaning to the legendary martial arts name of ‘grasshopper’. But it is Huat’s drawing of the main protagonists, the White Dragon and particularly Midnight Sun, which truly stands out as disappointingly poor pencilling. The clan leader’s dragon-mask looks like the head of a child’s cuddly animal as opposed to that of a fearsome martial artist. Whilst the Master of Kung Fu's brother appears like a cross between the Black Panther and a fedora wearing Indiana Jones.
Unfortunately the writing of Mike Benson does not get any better from the previous issues either as Shang-Chi, single-handedly takes on and beats the teeming occupants of a packed out nightclub. This is despite co-creators Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin never having bestowed any special superpowers upon him. An extraordinarily skilled martial artist indeed therefore...
However it is at the climax of “Blood Brother” that the writer once again decides, presumably for shock value, to dispatch another of this titles’ long-established characters, the Chinese mercenary Skull Crusher. Following on from his first appearance in “Master of Kung Fu” issue 61, the murderous martial arts expert would hound Shang-Chi in all but one publication during 1978, pushing the son of Fu Manchu to his limits as Skull Crusher attempted to slay him for payment. Almost forty years later Benson would have us believe this self-same character would meekly bow his head in total subjugation and allow his opponent Midnight Sun to simply chop his head off saying “It is all right, Shang-Chi. Everything is going to be alright…” Well it’s certainly not going to be if the writer continues to kill off memorable characters from the Master of Kung Fu’s past.
|Writer: Mike Benson, Pencils: Tan Eng Huat, Inks: Craig Yeung, and Colors: Jesus Aburtov|