Shang-Chi (Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu) Paperback – 1 Jun 2003
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15 or so years later Moench and Gulacy are back. To pick up where they left off. Sob-Bond plots, mysyerious supervillain - who ends up not being so mysterious after all - and all the usual characters. Shang Chi is coaxed out of retirement and has to face a fighter who may be his superior.
So what else is not new or re-hashed? Not much . The artwork is still sublime but for some reason far too much of the action takes place in semi-darkness. The script is adequate (just).
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Shang Chi's been updated in this reunion of the titans, and the result is...flat. The John Woo leather and shades look on the cover may have been necessary to keep up with the times, but the beloved Shang Chi and gang that everyone knew is essentially gone. I guess it's like watching Brando appear in a Deniro film long after their prime or Sugar Ray Leonard trying to regain his mojo and getting beat on.
Ok, so it's not that bad, but it's just soulless. The pulp fiction feel that made MOKF such an interesting property is sorely missing. Sure it was kitschy, but that's the world of comics.
What the comics community badly needs is a re-release of the entire MOKF series in colour graphic novels. Iron Fist has been revived. So just why is it taking so long?
Marvel's recent successes on the movie screen along with the burgeoning market for graphic novels has them looking to the past for their future. They also, obviously, believe that since the audience that grew up on these comics are older, that such audience also wants their return to be "mature" as well, and to that end Marvel has a new line of comics called "MAX" to distinguish comics with "mature" themes. I've only read two of the MAX titles--the original creators returning to my favorite books, Howard the Duck and Master of Kung Fu, and I'm starting to think ol' Tom Wolfe was right, and you can't go home again.
It's not that Master of Kung Fu (subtitled "The Hellfire Apocalypse") isn't well done. Moench and Gulacy are a wonderful team and the intervening years have not diminished their ability to portray in flat panels the fluidity and excitement of a martial arts epic. But something is missing, and I think it's the cliffhangers and surprise of the monthly comic. Collected together in this graphic novel, the monthly wait to see just how Shang-Chi, Weiko Lu, Clive Reston and Black Jack Tarr were going to get out of this dire calamity is gone. But even then, it wasn't that cast, nor Fu Manchu, that drew me to the comic, but the ancilliary ideas, just as it isn't James Bond or Blofield that brings you back to 007, but the gadgets. "The Hellfire Apocalypse," although it tries hard, is warmed over kung fu--there's nothing in this book that we haven't seen time and time again since Moench and Gulacy took their leave of us 20 years ago.
It makes me wary to re-read any of those 1970s/1980s originals, to see if my memory has failed me and that those comics weren't as great as I remember.
Classic Shang-Chi creators Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy return in this new action, spy thriller. The typical 'evil genius who wants to rule the world' spy theme is evident here as James Bond, espionage, and kung-fu fans should feel right at home. Moench's fairly generic spy plot isn't exactly innovative or deep, but it is a good fit for this action story and Paul Gulacy's great artwork. Gulacy's pencils and Palmiotti's inks clearly convey all of the many action scenes as well as the overall characters. Paul Mounts' dark but vibrant colors also do a good job of matching with the story.
Comic readers searching for a good, action based comic in a market filled with many dialogue heavy titles should look no further than "Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu."
NOTE: This is a Marvel MAX book and is suggested for older readers due to language and violence/gore (a comic book equivalent to an R-rated movie).
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