Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu #1


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Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu #1


  • Words: Jonathan Hickman, Mike Benson, Charlie Huston, & Robin Furth
  • Art: Kody Chamberlain, Tomm Coker, C. P. Smith, Enrique Romero, & Paul Gulacy
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Various
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Sep 30, 2009

Four tales comprise this anthology of the adventures of Shang-Chi, Marvel Comics' resident Kung Fu master. The first three are in comic form, and the final is a prose memoir by Robin Furth with spot illustrations by Paul Gulacy. I'll treat each one individually as there is very little if any connection between the tales. It certainly doesn't feel like Marvel is launching the character into any consistent direction, so the entire issue is aimless, but with some interesting features.

The lead story is called “The Annual Race to Benefit Various and Sundry Evil Organizations and Also the Homeless. Now with Beer and Hot Dogs.” Deadpool is the guest star, but in many ways is the lead character in the book. Shang-Chi is basically an afterthought for this ridiculous Deadpool vehicle, a satire of The Amazing Race television show. Shang-Chi narrates, but basically just describes the history of the race as it goes along. The story would be identical if it were Kobe Bryant, Carrot-Top, or Yakov Smirnoff in the starring role. Entirely unconvicing. Various competitors including Black Santas and Hitler Twins. Jonathan Hickman pens this tale, and while his attempt at humor is noble, it fell entirely flat for me. I find Deadpool to be a ludicrous and entirely uninteresting character. The Kody Chamberlin art is excellent, but put to use in an almost unreadable opener. Very surprising from a writer of Hickman's caliber.

Things get dramatically better in Mike Benson's tale. Shang-Chi is in Hong Kong and assaulted by the son of old foe. Tomm Coker and C. P. Smith create an atmosphere like a classic action flick with a “grainy” film reel feel. We are treated to great martial arts as well as a clever use of “subtitles” with the word balloons containing Chinese characters with English captions below the panels. It's a very simple revenge story, but a lot of fun to read.

Charlie Huston and Enrique Romero's “The Vaccuum of Memory” is a classic Kung Fu tale, wherein Shang-Chi takes on his brother M'Nai also known as Midnight. Of all the stories, this one is the most retro, with a Seventies style of artwork and dramatic narrative style. Of all the stories, this is what I most expected from the magazine. Unpretentious, action packed, and melodramatic, it is the stuff of Kung Fu legend.

Shang-Chi describes some of his training and philosophy in a short piece “edited” by Robin Furth with spot illustrations by Paul Gulacy. It was reminiscent of The Bride's training under Pai Mei from the Kill Bill movies, with feats of incredible physical prowess. Basically the story of determination from a disciplined master. Gulacy's art looks even better than usual in the glossy black and white production.

Three out of four stories in this anthology were well constructed, but unfortunately the lead feature sinks this Shang-Chi comic. I am sure Deadpool was included to broaden the readership base for the book, but his inclusion is a disaster, and relegates Shang-Chi to co-star in his own comic. No doubt Shang-Chi is a character worthy of his own title, but this one-shot will sadly not propel him to that status just yet.

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  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Oct 10, 2009 at 8:45am

    Haven't read as yet but I bought entirely based on the retro look of the issue. I loved the Marvel black and white magazine line of the '70s!

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