The old multiverse is gone! Battleworld is all that remains! And in Master of Kung Fu #1, Shang-Chi looks to defeat his father, Zheng Zu. With martial arts action, mysticism, and a team of misfits around him, Shang-Chi embarks on his quest. But is it good?
Master of Kung Fu #1 (Marvel Comics)
One of the first released tie-ins to Secret Wars, Master of Kung Fu #1 opens with a stylized prologue, explaining the history of K’un L’un, the Battleworld domain in which the series takes place. The narration pokes fun at the “long time ago” openings that so frequently begin stories in martial arts movies and other media. It is revealed that the narrator is an intoxicated Shang-Chi, retelling the legends to the attentive dog that serves as his audience.
Of course, this region of Battleworld is not without its police, and the Ten Rings is all too happy to pummel Shang-Chi into the dirt for his public intoxication. A crowd of onlookers gathers to watch the ensuing brawl. One of them is a young woman named Kitten, who recognizes Shang-Chi. She quickly runs off to gather Callisto and her gang to assist Shang-Chi in escaping the Ten Rings, all in the hope that he will be the one able to topple Zheng Zu’s rule. The inclusion of the alternate versions of Shadowcat and the Morlocks from the X-Men franchise is a pleasant surprise. These are not characters one would normally associate with Shang-Chi’s world. There are numerous schools mentioned throughout the issue, and while some make appearances here, many are left for future issues to explore.
The primary flaw to the issue’s narrative is the setup of the villain. While Zheng Zu appears in some of the issue’s prelude, the villain does not appear in the debut issue. This isn’t a problem in itself; many comics don’t tip their hand by showing the villain in the first chapter. However, other than the group that attacks Shang-Chi, there isn’t much evidence that anything is wrong with Zheng’s rule. The city is fairly pleasant looking, if it weren’t for all of Shang-Chi’s empty bottles. It would have helped Master of Kung Fu #1 to better establish the stakes for the series. Right now, this is a fun comic, but it’s not a particularly tense one.
Guess which one of these people is important.
Dalibor Talajic’s pencils fit this series perfectly. There’s an energetic finesse that, when combined with the inks of Goran Sudzuka and the colors of Miroslav Mrva, create a pulpy action tone that feels right at home in a collection of kung fu movies. Talajic’s layouts are a lot of fun. There are several two page spreads that contain multiple panels and create a nice sense of symmetry throughout the book. This also allows for some spectacular super-wide panels like one of Razor Fist and his allies charging through a wall of fire. The panel emphasizes their fury and power and makes them seem quite menacing and this is juxtaposed beautifully with a smaller panel of them finding out that their quarry has evaded them. This is art creating humor.
Is It Good?
Haden Blackman and Dalibor Talajic have a hit on their hands with Master of Kung Fu. The debut issue plays with the conventions of the martial arts genre and even pokes some fun at them, all without being demeaning to the genre. This is a book that relishes its genre, and does so while providing exciting takes on familiar characters. If the other tie-ins to Secret Wars manage to be this fun, this will be the event of the century.
Shang-Chi kicks you into the next issue!!!
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