Marvel Comics Presents #1 (Master of Kung Fu)
“Crossing Lines, Part 1 of 8: Ripples”
Writer – Steve Gerber
Art – Tom Sutton
Letters – Agustin Mas
Colors – Petra Scotese
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh & Michael Higgins
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Here’s another character I don’t have all that much familiarity with. Never really got into Shang-Chi… or, honestly, martial arts comics in general. Sure, I’ve giggled at an odd issue or two of Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter… but, that might just be more for the novelty of its outlandish title than anything else.
I’m not sure how prevalent Shang-Chi is in the “current year” Marvel Universe… but, I’m sure he’s kicking around somewhere… uh, no pun intended.
This is going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to attending Master of Kung Fu 101! If anyone reading is more familiar with this fella, please help keep me on track!
We open with a man arriving to Hong Kong via boat. He’s waxing fairly philosophical about the lives and times of… fish. As he walks the fairly cluttered streets a bomb goes off (huh?), our hero then proclaims that he has “returned to the world”. From where? Haven’t the foggiest… I might only assume this is a reference to an old Bronze Age tale? Anyhoo, our man keeps walking and philosophizing until he reaches, what he calls, a flophouse. He settles in, removing his tunic… revealing that he is (duh) Shang-Chi, and before long the entire place is swarming with warriors!
Shang-Chi appeared to be expecting these goofs… he even refers to himself as “bait”. It doesn’t take him long to beat the baddies… however, one manages to give him the slip. Our Kung Fu Master gives chase.
He follows the shadowy escapee back down the Hong Kong streets, and winds up at the Oriental Expediters Ltd. Building… which, is apparently a front for a “murder agency” based out of London. I apologize, I’m not following. Whatever the case, Shang-Chi enters… and makes his way through to the back side of the building. There, a man smoking a cigarette notes his presence, and announces that “he’s here”.
There’s also a pool back there, where a woman named Leiko is having a late night dip. Gotta take a dip myself… into the Marvel Comics Wiki… one sec. Okay, Leiko is a Bronze Age character, and so it’s not too strange that she and Shang-Chi already know each other. In fact, she beckons our hero into the pool with her… which facilitates him making even more fish metaphors!
Leiko reveals that a Xiao was instructed to bring Shang to them… which, I mean… there are probably worse fates. So, was the flophouse raid all part of this? In the pool they exchange chlorinated fluids… before emerging in front of a mustachioed gentleman named Black Jack Tarr. We wrap up with Jack informing Shang that it’s time for “Games of Deceit and Death, Part II”… izzat a Bruce Lee reference? I suppose we’ll find out!
Okay… here’s a weird question… which might sound somewhat reminiscent if you’ve been with me since the Action Comics Daily days. Let’s say, you’re a kid… teen-ager… whatever, who’s buying this first issue of Marvel Comics Presents because (duh) it’s got Wolverine in it. Now, if you were that kid… what would you make of this story?
Let’s not get it twisted… this isn’t a bad story… and despite the fact that I had trouble following it, I rather enjoyed it. But, this is kind of an odd “entry point” for a (relatively) obscure character such as Shang-Chi. At this point, he hasn’t been seen in five years. That’s a long while. I mean, this isn’t quite Secret Six levels of obscure… but, still. Add to the fact that we’re steeped in continuity here (which, again… don’t get me wrong, I love)… it’s just a bit of a toughie to follow along with.
I mean, let’s compare the way this rolls out with the way Claremont kicked off the Wolverine feature… Wolverine, a wildly popular character… still gets an introduction. We get the bit about the “unbreakable bones” and “mutant healing factor”… heck, he even mentions his nationality. Here, Gerber doesn’t give us any of that. I suppose we could argue that Steve wasn’t “talking down to the audience”… but, I tells ya what… when the audience (me) isn’t quite sure what they’re looking at, ya got a little bit of a problem!
I think there’s definitely a middle ground between too much exposition and absolutely none… and Gerber would’ve done well to maybe drop a breadcrumb or two for us in this opening chapter. We gotta assume that this story was a lot of folks’ first Master of Kung Fu story, no?
Anyhoo… the art was nice… Sutton really captured the grimy aesthetic of the Hong Kong streets… and gave us both a really nice fight scene, and an interesting pool make-out scene.
I’m looking forward to more.
Tomorrow: Let’s go Surfin’ now… everybody’s learning how