Characters Appearing: Black Jack Tarr, Clive Reston, Fah Lo Suee, Fu Manchu, Leiko Wu, Shang-Chi, Sir Denis Nayland Smith, Ward Sarsfield, Zaran
Master of Kung Fu #77-79
Issue(s): Master of Kung Fu #77, Master of Kung Fu #78, Master of Kung Fu #79
My coverage of Master of Kung Fu continues to be spotty but these issues introduce Zaran, a character that manages a number of appearances in the larger Marvel Universe. He describes himself as "a hunter, a trapper, a fisherman, and a master in the art of handling weapons".
He's initially working for Sarsfield, an agent of MI-6 that accuses the main cast of being in league with Fu Manchu, who he believes is still alive, but Zaran soon switches loyalties to work for Fah Lo Suee, Fu Manchu's daughter.
Shang-Chi is recovering from an emotional breakdown at the beginning of this story. He is tired of all the violence in his life, but has resigned himself to the fact that it must continue, in this case so he can rescue his friends. Shang-Chi and Leiko have a tape that will prove to the Prime Minister that MI-6 is corrupt.
Zaran and Shang-Chi battle three times during the course of this story.
The first time, Zaran manages to acquire the tape and give Leiko a concussion.
Meanwhile, Black Jack Tarr tries to rescue the MI-6 crew on his own, but gets shot by a pair of robots and captured as well.
In the second Shang-Chi/Zaran battle, Shang-Chi tracks Zaran back to his Scottish lodge, where he sees him conferring with Fah Lo Suee.
He subsequently approaches and attacks...
...causing Zaran to flee to the castle where Sarsfield is holding Sir Denis and the other MI-6ers. Zaran executes Sarsfield.
Meanwhile, Shang-Chi recovers the tape and, with a still-concussed Leiko, follows to the castle. Shang-Chi is also in bad shape; he's been several days without sleep, still not fully committed to his violent life, and seemingly coming down with the flu, for only the second time in his life.
So he's in a daze for his final battle with Zaran.
Mike Zeck's trademark big-mouth syndrome works in this context where Shang-Chi is half-hallucinating.
That said, the art does get a little weird in issue #79. There's an interesting development happening here; after partially shaking himself out of his daze, Shang-Chi has decided that he's been stagnating ("too little rising and advancing", a reference to the translation of his name), and the solution to that seems to be a berserker rage. But Zeck overdoes it.
Generally speaking, Zeck's art is really nice, handling the martial arts fights very well and and meshing nicely with Moench's story.
Shang-Chi collapses after the fight. More agents from MI-6 arrive, but with Sarsfield dead, they aren't confident acting on their own and so they take orders from Sir Denis, who has them set up base in the castle. When they play the tape Shang-Chi and Leiko have been carrying, they find that it's been overdubbed with a gloating message from Fah Lo Suee to her brother Shang-Chi.
While all this is going on, a crowd in South America witness what i assume is the resurrection of Fu Manchu.
Gene Day's inks definitely make a difference; much sketchier looking art with Gordon.
Kurt Busiek has an enthusiastic letter in each issue of this arc.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Until i fill in the gaps in my collection, i should note that the MCP does not list Fah Lo Suee or Fu Manchu as appearing in this arc. For Fu Manchu, i assume that's because he doesn't fully materialize. For Fah Lo Suee, it may just be a miss, but it could also be because of a twist in a later issue i'm not aware of (although considering her appearance in issue #83 with Zaran, i don't think that's the case).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The robots that Tarr battles are the same models seen on Mordillo Island back in issues #34-35; they're part of what MI6 got by recruiting Brynocki int he last storyline.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 26, 2016 5:11 PM
As noted in…er, some lettercol somewhere (I'm too lazy to check right now), the name of "Ward Sarsfield" is a homage to Arthur Sarsfield Ward, which was the real name of Fu Manchu creator "Sax Rohmer".
Really sleek action work from Zeck here. And the answer to the question in Shang-Chi's thoughts during the train fight ("why is Zaran's pike-staff hollow?") turns out to be "because he also uses it as a blowpipe", in case anyone is wondering.
Posted by: Dan Spector | June 14, 2017 1:42 PM
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