Master of Kung Fu #120
Issue(s): Master of Kung Fu #120
This issue is the last issue by Gene Day. The departure and death of Day seems to have reached a Vince Foster-esque "Jim Shooter killed Gene Day" level of conspiracy theory. Shooter has his account on his blog and it's basically confirmed in the comments by Gene's brother. A memorial in the lettercol of issue #122 (#121 is a Steven Grant/David Mazzucchelli fill-in) makes it sound like Day was still artist on this book when he died, but per Shooter and David Day, Gene was already working on other projects (which is not necessarily contradictory).
Here are some examples of the types of artistic decisions that Shooter and Day would have locked horns on. The first is the title page.
That's supposed to say "Dweller By the Dark Stream". I don't really think it works. Extending the last letter in each word is confusing and obliterates the lettering effect; it's hard enough to read the other letters with all of the events going on inside them. When you stretch out those last letters beyond recognition it's a chore to even figure out what you're looking at. Nonetheless i think it was a cool thing to try.
This second example is the type of thing Shooter talks about on his blog, where you see the same figures at multiple places in the same scene.
I don't know if this was the issue that Shooter was referring to, but it's the type of thing he describes. I think the end product here works fine. The fact that there are panel breaks makes it very clear that time is passing between images and therefore you're seeing the same people at multiple times. May the panel breaks were added after the initial review? Frankly, even without the panel breaks i think even a 10 year old could figure this out, as long as the characters are distinct (which they are, here). Again, i don't know if this scene in particular was the one Shooter was describing; perhaps Day tried a similar technique somewhere else and Shooter felt it wasn't as clear.
Here's the same technique from later in the book.
In any event, the story here is that Rufus Carter, an ex-CIA agent that Shang-Chi has met before invites Shang-Chi to accompany him on his first freelance mission, which involves helping a bag-piping landowner to defend his land from people from a rival clan, as part of a feud that goes back generations.
It's a competent story but it's not especially gripping. Shang-Chi as a freelance agent in theory allowed for just about any type of story to be told where he's really more of a passive observer, like this one, but it's not really a direction for the book. I wonder if Moench was holding back because he already knew the book was cancelled or if this was more of a treading water exercise intended to let things remain calm for a while before building up something new.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Moench's MOKF run is very stellar, but it is not as compelling as it was in the mid seventies when the James Bond and martial arts mayhem was at its height. It also suffers from Moench having to draw water from the same well again and again.
I think the character works, and the supporting cast is great. Moench just needed to think of a way to make the series compelling again and get it out of the ghetto he's created.
When one thinks of the Asian martial arts and intrigue used by Frank Miller in Daredevil, Claremont with Madripoor for Wolverine, or even how Larry Hama develops Snake Eyes in GI Joe, there's almost no reason why Moench couldn't have stolen some of that thunder and interjected it into MOKF. Allowing more Asian influences, expanding the scope and scenery of international intrigue, and including some technothriller elements would have turned MOKF from a staid 1970s feeling to a very modern day (for the 1980s).
There's an interview with Monech where he complains about Jim Shooter telling him to make Shang-Chi a Master of Ninja or some such thing, and Moench condescendingly explains that ninjas are Japanese and Shang-Chi/kung fu are Chinese. What the interview actually shows is that Shooter realizes cultural references have changed, and that MOKF needs to change some how in order to drive sales back up. If Moench was a little less pigheaded, I think he could have done it as he has very strong skills as a writer. I wonder what Larry Hama would have done with it if given the chance?
Posted by: Chris | August 10, 2013 2:12 PM
One thing I like about MOKF (and don't take this the wrong way), is that it rarely if ever focuses on the USA. The adventures have a very British appeal with slapdashes of Europe and Asia. Its nice to see a Marvel comic that acknowledges the outside world for more than an issue or two. It gives it a more exotic appeal than your standard Marvel mag (I know it sounds strange coming from a European but I hope I'm clear here.)
Posted by: kveto | October 21, 2017 6:36 AM
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