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Â ”My father named me Shang Chi, which means rising of the spirit.Â He hoped that one day, I would become the world’s greatest kung fu master, as well as it’s most accomplished assassin…Â I believed my father was a great man, and I was proud to call him master.Â But even after I learned of his evil nature.Â I never rejected the art of Kung Fu.Â The Tao of the Warrior is sacred, and not even my father could corrupt it.”Â What more do you really need to know?
Previously, on Shang-Chi – Master of Kung Fu:Â Fu Manchu had a problem.Â His Si-Fan assassins were among the greatest and most capable combatant-slash-murderers around, but it seemed impossible toÂ TRULY guaranteeÂ their loyalty.Â In an effort to overcome this one small weakness, the evil doctor drafted his own son into a training program, forging him into a human weapon.Â Shang-Chi, however, eventually was sent to kill Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, ancient enemy of Fu Manchu, and in so doing learned of his father’s true and treacherous nature.Â Turning against his programming, Shang became an agent of MI:6, working with Nayland-Smith and his agents to undermine his father.Â Of course, duplicity isn’t only a weapon of the bad guysin the realm of spycraft, and soon Shang tired of the ‘games of deceit and death.’Â After the seeming death of his father, Shang left the intelligence trade, moving through the Marvel Universe in search of his place in the world.Â He ran with the latest incarnation of ‘Heroes For Hire,’ even taking a POINT-BLANK shot from an enraged Hulk without getting splattered.Â Though his path may have changed, Shang’s philosophy remains that it is the JOURNEY, not the destination, that counts and he still stands on the side of justice, when necessary.Â Now, though, he occasionally puts on shoes…
The cover of this issue is a total flashback for me, (and for anyone who used to read ‘Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu’) fully painted, using the old logos andÂ a trade dress designed to emulate the old series.Â Even the inside front cover is a throwback, giving a breakdown of the multiple stories in this issue.Â As the cover probably told you, the first story involves Deadpool (who, since the issue is in black an white, can’t have his usual yellow word balloons, causing him to have white lettering on a black background) as he and Shang argue back and forth as narrator.Â The story is relatively simple: Every year, a motorcycle race takes place across the desert, to which the most evil men gather to race each other, looking to claim the nebulous prize.Â Shang has won the circuit every year for the last three, and finally the losers have pooled their money to hire Deadpool to beat him.Â “Say it with me,” says Wade.Â “Crotch rocket.”Â Heh.Â The race is pretty much a slapstick affair, with “The Hitler Twins” quickly eliminated, a Minotaur taking out a team of cross-dressing professional wrestlers, and Shang and ‘Pool enjoying a famous hot dog as “Sodom’s Diner,” where the waitress pretends to be pregnant for bigger tips, and the dogs contain “Mystery Meat #7.”Â I’m pretty sure it’s Soylent Green.Â The food is so wonderful that Shang-Chi AND Deadpool give up the race and head back for another round, which turns out to be good since Deadpool planted a bomb in the trophy, killing the winners and ending the race.Â Even with implications of cannibalism, this story is a hoot…
The second piece in the book is another odd one, with amazing art by Tomm Coker, and the dialogue written in Chinese and subtitled in English.Â The son of an old foe has returned to take vengeance on Shang-Chi, and the boy intends to kill the Master of Kung Fu.Â Shang, for his part, still regrets the death of the father (a man who called himself ‘The Death Dealer’) and tries to spare the child his fate.Â “I understand your need for revenge,” he tells his foe.Â “Just know that this is a road that ends in death.Â And it will NOT be mine.”Â Shang leaves the son defeated, but still alive, telling him to train harder, as Shang will be waiting.Â The last story is the one that holds the most emotional value for me, telling the story of Shang-Chi’s reunion with his “brother,” the man called M’nai.Â M’nai became the martial artist called Midnight, died in battle, and was resurrected as a cosmic yo-yo called Midnight Sun.Â In this story (timeframe as yet unclear, but set sometime after Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #29) M’nai returns, Shang manages to hold his old, MUCH more powerful friend at bay long enough for him to find a way to ask the question that plagues him.Â Carving the words, “Who am I?” in the wall, M’Nai and Shang stand for a moment, before the Master of Kung-Fu places his hand on Midnight’s shoulder.Â “You are M’nai.Â Our father’s son.”Â We close with a text piece explaining Shang’s theories on kung-fu and the methods by which he became the Master, with spot illustrations by legendary MoKF artist Paul Gulacy.Â It’s a very subtle piece, and the art is wonderful…Â
As one-shots go, this one is quite good, establishing a character who hasn’t really been front and center in the Marvel pantheon of late, giving him a nice comedy bit with Deadpool, some super dramatic moments, a continuity tie-in from the old series, and even a fake ad for the “Fat Tiger Fighting Academy.”Â If there’s any problem with the book, it’s that it is targeting those who are already fans of Shang and the Deadly Hands days, which may lead to some accessibility problems in the world of Wolverine and Bucky-Cap.Â Still, the presence of Deadpool might bring some new kids on board, and the basic character structure of the Master of Kung Fu is still a sound one.Â There’s a wide range of art styles on display here, some more successful that others, and the stories each have a little something interesting going on.Â The weakness of the anthology is also in effect, though, giving each story it’s own little weakness as well (the art on the M’nai story, for one, the fact that the clever subtitling makes the Hong Kong story difficult to follow for another.)Â Overall, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu Special #1 earns 3.5 out of 5 stars overall, and I’m happy to see Master of Kung Fu back on the stands.Â Â I wouldn’t even mind more of the same, especially if the series is relaunched as well as Iron Fist was a couple of years ago.