|MASTER OF KUNG FU No. 4, October 2015|
Having endured this anti-climactic concluding instalment to Shang-Chi’s “Secret Wars” mini-series, many readers will arguably wish that writer Haden Blackmore had somehow managed to find a way “to pass up on an opportunity to flesh out a new corner of the Marvel Universe”. For whilst his “Battleworld” narrative is successful in “revolving around martial arts and the supernatural”, the former “LucasArts” producer’s uninspiring final premise that the long-time enemies of the Emperor’s “disgraced son” would actually aid him in his ‘mission’ to become Zheng Zhu’s better, just because he admits he “sacrificed his honor” for the sake of rival and former love Red Sai (Elektra), is implausible nonsense.
Certainly it is hard to imagine anyone who hates the true “Master Of Kung Fu” as much as Daniel Rand-K’ai has been depicted doing throughout this storyline, suddenly channelling their own life-force into their arch-nemesis’ dying form just because the ailing combatant admits he “only killed” Iron Fist’s Master to stop the Emperor from murdering an entire martial arts school. As the unlikeable wielder of the mystical living force says himself at the time of this unconvincing revelation “He should have found another way. He could have killed his father instead…”
Dubious plotting and questionable motivations aside however, the computer games “creative director” does arguably produce something of a memorable confrontation between Shang-Chi and his parent within the final third of this comic book. In fact for close to eight pages it is hard to disassociate Blackmore’s new version of Jim Starlin’s co-creation from the old, as the master of Wushu goes toe-to-toe with Zheng Zhu and uses all manner of fighting techniques in order to eventually outwit the evil tyrant…
Admittedly Steve Englehart’s extraordinarily skilled warrior from the Seventies never manifested unearthly magical proficiencies such as “the power to harden my hands into the mortal blade” or “to force all of my most painful memories into the mind of another…” But considering within this ‘alternative universe’ martial artists are bestowed with “a wide range of powers and abilities” like “intangibility and even shape-shifting”, such an extreme variance to the original ‘powerless’ Shang-Chi is just about tolerable.
Perhaps slightly more bearable than the script to “Master And Apprentice” is the action-packed artwork of Dalibor Talajic. The Croatian penciller’s panels depicting Rand-K’ai and Red Sai’s all-too brief battle with this comic’s “battered and exhausted” main protagonist is full of dynamic movement and rather well-drawn. Unfortunately though the same cannot be said for the illustrator’s portrayal of the Emperor’s ultimate battle with his son in the Thirteenth Chamber, with parts of "the Final Battle", such as Shang-Chi’s application of the “Lost Hope” technique upon his father’s brow, appearing rather amateur-looking at best.
|Writer: Haden Blackman, Penciler: Dalibor Talajic, and Inker: Goran Sudzuka|