Mike Benson did his homework and updates this series into a modern kung fu classic.
I like this book for the same reason I like summer action flicks and Bruce Lee movies: the plot isn’t complicated but there’s always an interesting guy with a gift for kicking ass. Packed with chase scenes, explosions, dismemberment, pithy dialogue, returning characters from the original run of the series, heartbreak, revenge, espionage, intrigue, and a whole lot of kung fu fighting, this first issue has everything you’d ever want in an action title.
The story starts in high gear as MI:6 agent Leiko Wu fights the Shadow Ghosts only to be brutally slain by their leader, Razorfist. When we meet Shang-Chi, he is in the Rocky Mountains chasing the mercenary Crossbones, who has escaped his prison transport. Crashing a snowmobile into a getaway helicopter is just as much fun as you’d think, and artist Tan Eng Huat presents these panels much the way a film storyboard would look—it’s a perfect complement to Benson’s fast-paced story. Captain America has the unfortunate duty to inform Shang that Leiko is dead and after granting the master of kung fu a leave of absence from the Avengers, Cap warns him about the pitfalls of seeking revenge. There is a nice scene with Shang-Chi and the Sons of the Tiger, who don’t all agree with Shang’s decision against revenge.
In London, Shang attends his former lover’s funeral, pays his respects to her family, and seeks out the location in Chinatown where she died. Of course he does! And there are bad guys waiting to kill him. Of course there are! And when he is finished kicking their asses, MI:6 agent Black Jack Tarr all but challenges Shang to find her killer. Now we have all of the action elements in place for this limited series to be a hit.
Benson and Huat are spot-on with all of the elements that make action movies fun, and they have included all of the elements of a 1970s kung fu story that you’d expect without being cheesy. The original Deadly Hands of Kung Fu series ran for 33 issues from 1974 to 1977 through Marvel’s Curtis Magazines imprint. It had a rotating cast of characters that included Iron Fist, the Daughters of the Dragon, the White Tiger, the Sons of the Tiger, and usually featured a story with Shang-Chi, who was drawn to look suspiciously like Bruce Lee. In bringing this title back for a limited run, Marvel is updating these characters to modern times but not deviating from the fist-pounding kung fu that makes them so much fun. Enjoy!
Mike Benson (W), Tan Eng Huat (A) • Marvel Comics, $3.99, May 14, 2014