Always on time like Irv Gotti and Ja Rule back in the day, Guy Padre drops back in to deliver that drug you love…Muuuurdaaa…ahem, the FOC. We’re grabbing a Fistful of Comics and talkin’ (can’t help myself) Muuuurder. United States of Murder Inc. that is. Plus some other books come along for the bloody ride. There’s bare knuckle brawling, kung-fu fighting, noir-y Goomba smarminess, and guns blazing action. Fists up! Let’s get to it.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG-FU #1
The title harkens back to the days of Marvel’s black and white martial arts themed magazine of the same name.
That tome of kick-butt greatness featured The White Tiger Hector Ayala, Iron Fist, The Sons of the Tiger, and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. The latter starred in what is not just one of your Padre’s favorite comic runs of all time, but a recognized untouchable classic in the minds of comic pros and fans the world over. The team of Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy, later artists Mike Zeck and Gene Day, elevated The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu (MOKF) to the top of the Bronze Age heap. Due to rights issues and some characters not being available for Marvel to use (Fu-Manchu for one), this series is still criminally uncollected. All of that is setup to say, this week’s debut of the new MOKF in the form of Deadly Hands, or DHOKF, is starting at a bit of a disadvantage in my mind.
Yes. Somewhat, slightly so. Even with my bias put aside, viewed on its own merits, I’m still not sure if what it does do right is enough.
It is certainly clear that writer Mike Benson (Moon Knight, Deadpool: Suicide Kings) gets the voice and inner monologue of Shang-Chi, while crafting a story that sets out to be its own thing and not some mere homage. Old friends The Sons of the Tiger make an appearance, as does Leiko Wu, and Black Jack Tarr.
This Shang-Chi, as we have seen over the last few years, is more firmly entrenched in the greater Marvel U as an Avenger under the direction of Captain America. (Is anyone NOT an Avenger these days?)
The story starts off fast as we are dropped into a cool action scene that ends with a shock. Before we can catch our breath we are smack dab in the middle of another chase and fight sequence. It is after this second fight that things slow down. Not reading wise, because you will be done in a matter of minutes. No, the story slows down because Shang-Chi’s interactions with everyone else in the book just seem to drag. He comes across as almost too serene and calm, looking zoned out, cold, and boring for the most part. There is another fight scene towards the end, followed by some exposition by Tarr, (I wouldn’t really call what they had a conversation), and an ending that felt flat.
Artist Tan Eng Huat (X-Men Legacy) has a cartoony style that is very clean and distinct. It isn’t the gritty realism you might be expecting from a book about the MOKF, but it has a nice animated look that works with the story being told. His layouts are precise and storytelling clear. There are some spots, however, where characters look a bit stiff and background settings look empty or lacking in detail. There are also spots where he seems to be struggling with Shang’s look, facially, as it changes on some pages from one panel to the next. It can be distracting and take away from what is, overall, a fun style.
DHOKF #1 is not a bad book; it’s more of an average debut with a few good fight scenes sprinkled throughout.
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