Friday, 22 May 2015

Master Of Kung Fu #1 - Marvel Comics

MASTER OF KUNG FU No. 1, July 2015
Openly ‘boasting’ upon its splendid Francesco Francavilla front cover that it contains “Shang-Chi in a tale of Kung Fu madness and mastery” this “Secret Wars” tie-in title certainly provides “Marvel Worldwide” comic book collectors with an interesting “wide range of reimagined characters”. Indeed this ‘warped’ world of K’un-Lun, where the whiskered martial arts expert is both a wanted murderer and ‘down and out’ drunkard, is initially a disorientating topsy-turvy read.

However having navigated Haden Blackman’s wonderfully written opening, which despite his insistence on using the odd profanity is a mesmerizingly good narration chronicling the creation of the kingdom’s ‘thirteen chambered trial by combat’, these once familiar people and their ‘all-new’ alternate personalities soon settle into the customary age old conflict of hero verses villain. Thus, having established the ‘reinvented’ Shang-Chi as a park vagrant and somewhat soiled son of the evil Emperor Zheng Zu, the former “Batwoman” co-writer swiftly introduces the inebriated warrior’s obvious arch-rival, the belligerent Razor Fist; who in this incarnation “can chop off a man’s head with his bare hands.”

Such a classic confrontation, especially with a disconcertingly different Typhoid “Typhus” Mary additionally thrown into the mix, should always result in a memorably violent fist-fight… And Blackman’s storyline certainly does not disappoint as an overconfident and arrogant tyrannical ruler’s bodyguard, as well as his two formidable female companions, are soundly thrashed by a humorous smart-mouthed Shang-Chi over the course of the next few pages; “I am sorry, legendary Razor Fist. I truly meant to let you hit me. But I am so drunk I can’t even control my own reflexes.”

Less successful, though still mildly entertaining, are some of the other more recognisable inhabitants of this “Battleworld”, many of whom seem to have banded together to create a somewhat ineffective oriental version of the Morlocks. Thus a bald Kitty Pryde, Caliban, Callisto, Wolfsbane and Fing Fang Foom-like Lockheed the Dragon, all make contributions to the story with varying degrees of success.

Any action-orientated title, full of karate chops, kicks and agile gymnastics will arguably ‘live or die’ depending upon the quality of its artwork. Fortunately Dalibor Talajic’s pencilling is certainly competent, for the majority of his illustrations at least, with the Croatian’s fresh interpretation of a quite different Shang-Chi proving to be especially well-drawn. However several panels suffer from the artist’s somewhat sketchy simplistic style and habit of using blank featureless backgrounds, most notably those featuring Shadowcat and the other “undesirables”.
The variant cover art of "MASTER OF KUNG FU" No. 1 by Butch Guice


  1. Simon, I was a regular collector of the Master of Kung Fu comics when they were first published. I loved that series as it featured some stunning artwork by the likes of Paul Gulacy and Gene Day. But when I saw that a new series was being made it just did not grab me the way the early series did. Reading your reviews of the new series I am glad I decided to give it a miss. Shang Chi in beard and moustache is just WRONG!

    1. Sorry, I should have said review not reviews.

    2. Bryan, this "Battleworld" version of Shang-Chi does take a bit of getting used to... but as a four-issue 'alternative version' it seems to be one of the better "Secret Wars" titles "Marvel Worldwide" are currently publishing. Which probably says a lot for the quality of their current line-up of comic books. Like you I'm an enormous fan of the Gene Day - though I preferred Mike Zeck as penciller ;-) But it'd have to be entirely awful for me not to buy anything with Shang-Chi in it...

    3. And it is certainly better than the 2014 "Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu" four-issue mini-series, which I reviewed last year, starting here:

    4. Thanks for the link, Simon. Somehow I missed that. if I had known about that series I would not have bought it or would have stopped buying it after issue #1. Killing off Leiko Wu, one of my favourite characters of the old series, was unforgivable. I hope it was set on an alternate Earth and thus, is not canon.

    5. No worries Bryan. The 2014 mini-series is very sadly official canon, and as you'll see from my reviews not only saw the demise of Leiko Wu but also of Skullcrusher (in the most pathetic of ways too!!). Disturbingly even though Leiko was reanimated at the end of the story, she has been brought back as some sort of immortal who wields 'Green Lantern' like super powers. Utter nonsense :-(