Characters Appearing: Black Jack Tarr, Clive Reston, Leiko Wu, Shang-Chi, Zaran II
Master of Kung Fu: Bleeding Black #1
Issue(s): Master of Kung Fu: Bleeding Black
I said with the first Master of Kung Fu story in Marvel Comics Presents that it was one of the better uses of the title, and that's true of this one as well. Doug Moench is writing and still has a great handle on the characters. The art team are the brothers of Gene Day, although they're working in a style equally reminiscent of Paul Gulacy. The story features (a) Zaran and a genetically created monstrosity left behind by the deceased Fu Manchu. And most importantly, it features a guy with weapons for hands.
So really, it's a quintessential Master of Kung Fu story.
The story does pick up in the aftermath of the previous story, with Shang-Chi still dying of poison and Leiko Wu adjusting to life with a bionic hand (she clearly didn't get a Stark version like Misty Knight).
The story has the flail-fist guy, Shadow-Hand, competing with Shang-Chi in search of a hidden treasure room left behind by Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi has been convinced by his former MI-6 friends that he should seek Fu Manchu's Serum of Immortality to neutralize his poison. Shadow-Hand's motivation turns out to be complicated. He wants to take over the remnants of Fu Manchu's organization, but more importantly he's looking for some belated vengeance. It turns out he used to be the keeper of a giant mutated gorilla thing but it bit off his hands when he took pity on it and tried to free it.
Shang-Chi actually winds up befriending the gorilla, which turns on Shadow-Hands again.
Note that Shang-Chi has returned to his old costume.
Working for Shang-Chi is a new Zaran (Shadow-Hands' hired hand, ha ha!).
There's no real explanation as to why this guy would look identical to the original and i assume it was another case where another book had a hold on a character so they had to make a new one.
Zaran is knocked off a cliff about halfway through the story and isn't seen again.
In this story we learn how all these weapon hand guys get by in regular life. The answer is handmaidens (ha ha again!)(these are not my jokes, they're in the book).
In the end Shang-Chi winds up taking control of the remaining Si-Fan, and, after a brief moment of mania induced by drinking the elixer, he recovers and orders them to disband. They hesitatingly agree, but only so long as Fu Manchu never resurfaces.
It's not confirmed that the elixer cures Shang-Chi, but rather than keep around to be sure (or allow the formula to be analyzed), he dumps the rest of it on the ground.
One advantage of the many chapters is that it gives the art team an opportunity to do a Gulacy style splash ever 8 pages. They don't quite pull it off as well as Gulacy (or Gene Day) would have, but it's still cool.
On the other hand the art is sometimes stiff and posed (there's no reason for Shang-Chi to be making that facial expression in that panel).
But even that panel is kind of cool in the way it is framed with Fu Manchu, in a Steranko/Gulacy/Gene Day kind of way.
Another, kind of random, commenting about the art. Normally it's not a good sign when artists have to put in little arrows showing you which direction to read the panels. It's a sign of bad storytelling from the artist (Tom Brevoort calls them "arrows of shame"). There's a use of those arrows in this story, but as far as i can tell it's entirely unnecessarily. You can really read the panels in any order (after the first one) and the flow is fine.
Overall, even if it feels more like a good cover band doing versions of your favorite Master of Kung Fu songs, it's a nice experience.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's said in mock MI-6 file on the inside front cover that Shang-Chi has six months to live. The actual story is a little more vague on that; Shang-Chi doesn't know how long it will take for the poison to take effect. Based on that and Marvel's compressed timeline, i'm placing this story at publication date even though it's a ways away from Marvel Comics Presents #1-8.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
... damm, I want some handmaidens of mine.
BTW. It's interesting to know that the arrows were considered a shameful storytelling device in the American comics. Back here, they've been quite popular... Not that I liked them. But even proficient artists used them...
Posted by: Piotr W | September 12, 2015 3:35 PM
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