Since it is the season for some butt-kicking, I think it’s time to return to a character that I talked about a couple of years ago: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. He’s not really a favorite of mine. I really don’t know much about him. All I’ve really read of him has been a free comic book of Amazing Spider-Man where Peter had to learn kung fu, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #3, and Master of Kung Fu #124. He debuted during the 1970’s when the martial arts craze began to take hold over here. He wasn’t the only character that came out of that craze and I’ll get to them later. He’s still around the Marvel Universe these days. I think he was even an Avenger for a bit though everyone’s been an Avenger. I actually think I’m on reserve status these days…
Today’s issue is Master of Kung Fu #125. This was actually the last issue in this series for the character. I found it at McKay’s and since I read the previous issue before, I wanted to see how it all ended. Allen Zelenetz wrote the final issue. William Johnson did the main pencils while Alan Kupperburg came in and did some pencils and his own inking. Hellboy’s creator, Mike Mignola, handled the main inks. Denny O’Neil was also the editor of this issue. So, let’s see how Shang Chi dealt with the guilt of killing his father.
Master of Kung Fu #125
Writer: Allen Zelenetz
Pencils: William Johnson and Alan Kupperburg
Inks: Mike Mignola and Alan Kupperburg
Letters: Rick Parker
Colors: George Roussos
Editor: Denny O’Neil
We start the issue with Shang Chi at his father’s temple and grave. He still feel a lot of guilt for killing his father, the evil Fu Manchu. Everywhere he’s turned to has come up empty. Feeling a bit out of it, he heads outside to get some fresh air. He goes by a pool and does some more pondering. Before he does any more sulking, he gets attacked by a giant turtle… it looks like New York City isn’t the only place that has this problem. Apparently, it was one of his father’s biological experiments. Having no choice, he’s able to kill the weird abomination and leaves the temple. Before he leaves, he sees one of his father’s old ceremonial cups and takes it.
Hmm... at least the turtle doesn't talk or I'l call shenanigans!
He travels some distance and stumbles upon a theater group. Unfortunately, they aren’t the Ember Island Players. He accompanies them to the next town. While he thinks about his old life, we see that his supporting characters (mostly Leiko, his girlfriend) are thinking about him. The theater group ends up performing a play about a bad father/son relationship and this gets him to think about his guilt again. He runs away from the play. He ends up boarding a train and travels to the Kwang Tung province. He finds a town near the ocean and ends up having a good time with its people.
Man, Skeletor has gone Eastern on us!
After he does some sparring with some of the guys, he heads off to rest. At night, he ends up getting attacked by an assassin in a Noh mask. Shang Chi’s mother, who apparently isn’t a nice woman, sent the killer in order to torture and kill Shang Chi. He uses one of Fu Manchu’s experimental robes to mess with Shang Chi’s mind. Luckily, Shang Chi is able to break the control and their final fight begins on the beach while it’s storming. Their fight moves to the water and the killer almost takes Shang Chi’s life. Luckily, a big wave comes and sweeps the killer away. Realizing that he has a second chance at life and has found his atonement, he decides to stay at the town to become a fisherman.
I thought this was a fine issue. I will say that it was a weird last issue. I got the main story beats. We have a man who is guilt-ridden because he killed his father. Even though Fu Manchu wasn’t a good man, Shang Chi still regrets killing him. We see him deal with these demons in a weird way and it does end well for him since he doesn’t die. It sucks about his friends though. I did like that we really don’t get any confirmation on who the assassin or if he was even real. It was possible the assassin appeared because of the guilt he experienced.
The artwork was good for the most part. I enjoyed Johnson’s pencils and Mignola’s inks. The action was pretty cool with that weird turtle part and the final fight scene. Kupperburg’s stuff was a little jarring at first but still good. He just came in to freak Shang Chi out with the weirdness, I guess. My only complaint is really the ending where he got his atonement. I didn’t really get that. So, getting washed by the ocean and drinking from your father’s ceremonial cup brings salvation? I was just confused with that part.
Overall, it was a nice last issue for the character. Luckily, he didn’t stay a fisherman for long since he did come back to the hero business. I think he actually took up Bruce Lee’s look for a time. I guess it makes sense because he was created during that time. I kind of hope he appears along with Iron Fist as a part of Marvel's deal with Netflix. At least Shang Chi is more remembered than someone who I’ll be looking at later. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and don’t kill folk. A giant turtle and masked assassin might come after you. Hey, it’s either them or the police!
NEXT TIME: IRON FIST – THE WORST DRESSED KUNG FU FIGHTER SINCE THIS GUY!