Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu #1 (of 4) Review

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The Master Of Kung-Fu is seldom a vengeful man, but when an old enemy targets his loved ones, that theorem may be put to the test.  Your Major Spoilers review of Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu #1 awaits!

DHOKF1CoverDEADLY HANDS OF KUNG-FU #1
Writer: Mike Benson
Penciler: Tan Eng Huat
Inker: Craig Yeung
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu:  Raised by his father in secrecy, Shang-Chi didn’t realize that he was being groomed as an assassin, nor that his father was the notorious criminal mastermind Fu Manchu.  Breaking free of his father’s influence, Shang was wandered the Marvel Universe, seeking truth and using his skills in the pursuit of justice and balance, even becoming an Avengers.  As the most skilled hand-to-hand combatant around (even Wolverine and Iron Fist have flat-out said Shang is their superior), Shang-Chi is often called Master of Kung-Fu, but can he master his own emotions?

A DISAPPOINTING OPENING GAMBIT

This issue opens with Shang’s old partner and romantic interest, Leiko Wu, running from assassins in London’s Chinatown district, pursued by a number of kung-fu foes.  The leader reveals himself to be Shang’s old enemy, Razorfist, The Man Who Cannot Use The Restroom Without Help, who corners her, proclaims her a traitor…

…and brutally rips her in two with his blades.  Upon reading, I was immediately angry and disappointed at this turn of events, not just because I liked Leiko (she’s been part of Shang’s cast since 1973, after all) but because I felt like I knew where the story was going.  We do get a lovely couple of pages of Shang-Chi in action, bringing down Crossbones with very little effort at all (something that makes me very happy, as Crossbones is right up there with The Hood in the ranks of characters that I can never understand Marvel’s ardor for), before being told by Captain America about his lady-friend’s demise.  Shang requests a leave of absence from the Avengers, and Captain America warns him not to travel the road of vengeance.  The Master Of Kung-Fu responds that the Captain misunderstands, that he’s only going to pay his respects and attend Leiko’s funeral.  “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”, says Shang-Chi, and I breathe a sigh of relief that writer Mike Benson actually READ any of the old MoKF comics.

“GRATITUDE IS THE MEMORY OF THE HEART…”

The rest of the issue moves pretty quickly, bringing back more of Shang’s old crew, such as the Sons Of The Tiger (and makes me very happy that Lin Sun disagrees with Shang’s calm acceptance of Leiko’s murder, making it clear that the men have separate and distinct personalities, even as they have their similarities) and Black Jack Tarr, and as always, his journeys turn up trouble.  Tan Eng Huat has never been one of my favorite artists, as I find his work very difficult to follow, and his figures are oddly elongated and lumpy throughout the issue.  Shang’s battle with Crossbones looks pretty excellent, but Leiko’s confrontation with Razorfist and Shang’s closing battle are both puzzling to read.  There is, however, an indication that something strange is going on with ‘Fist’s lackeys, which gives me hope that there’s more to Miss Wu’s demise than a wholesale murder-the-girlfriend-to-set-off-the-revenge-plot tale.  It’s been at least seven years since most of these guys have seen any panel-time, so I’m not going to be particularly bothered by the fact that they’re not where they were when we last saw ‘em, and part of me is willing to ignore all that in order to get Shang back in his own book.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape the shadow of the brutal murder in the open pages…

THE BOTTOM LINE: ODD ART, MIXED-BAG OF STORY

All in all, this issue feels like nothing special, though the creative team clearly has a handle on Shang-Chi’s character, and I’m hoping that the remainder of the series really picks up the pace.  Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu #1 has a tough row to hoe, with a main character who can come across as maddeningly passive and a difficult to accept opening, as well as inconsistent noodly art, but still nails 3 out of 5 stars overall.  The sequence at Leiko’s funeral was unusually respectful for a comic book though, and any time we see the Sons of The Tiger is a good time for me…