MCP #2 – Master of Kung Fu

Marvel Comics Presents #2 (Master of Kung Fu)
“Crossing Lines, Part 2 of 8: Bait”
Writer – Doug Moench
Pencils – Tom Grindberg
Inks – Dave Cockrum
Letters – Agustin Mas
Colors – Petra Scotese
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh & Michael Higgins
Chief – Tom DeFalco

Hey, hey, hey… WHAT is going on here?  < / belding > We’re only one issue in, and Doug Moench and Steve Gerber have already swapped features???

I already made that “joke”, didn’t I?  What can I say… I figured it probably went over so well yesterday, what’s the harm of doing it again.  Also, I’m a rather uncreative fellow.

Today we’re going to hop back into Shang-Chi’s “return” to… wherever he’s returning to, from… wherever he’s returning from.  This feature was a surprise hit last week… garnering the most views out of any of the four MCP stories.  Not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason for that… does ol’ Shang have a Netflix series out or something?

Oh well, whatever the case… who’s ready for some more fish references?

We open with Shang-Chi, having been reunited with some of his old running buddies, getting suited up.  Reston suggests that his new costume would do Bruce Lee proud.  Our hero hasn’t the foggiest idea who “Bruce Li” is.  Is that funny?  I think that’s supposed to be funny.  Anyhoo, once dressed, Black Jack Tarr gives us the quick ‘n dirty on how he got into his new position.  Having zero familiarity with any of this, I suppose this is kind of helpful.  Then again, since I do have no familiarity with this, it comes across as pretty meaningless.  As Tarr bloviates, Shang notices how chummy Xiao and Leiko have grown… more on that later.

After Jack shuts his trap, Shang notices that Reston has taken up the old past-time of… smoking!  He questions him on this decision, leading to our fair-haired boy nearly hacking out a lung.  I think this was supposed to be funny as well.  Anyhoo, Tarr suggests that with Shang’s return, everything will go back to the way it used to be.  This causes our hero to kind of flip out.  He didn’t return just to repeat the past, you see.  He dramatically throws up his fist… then stomps out of the room like an eight year old girl whose parents wouldn’t buy her a pony.

Shang hangs out in the courtyard… for like hours, it seems.  Thankfully there’s a pond/pool out there, so he could make more fish references.  We definitely haven’t seen enough of those yet!  After awhile, he grows tired of this… Lord knows I am… and decides to, uh… try and get a li’l alone time with Leiko?  She turns him down, promising to explain everything the following morning.  Shang-Chi… De-Nied.

We follow our hero to bed… where he’s awakened by nightmares of demons or something… probably has something to do with his old title.  It’s a darn good thing our man does wake up, however, because the compound is under attack!  Shang’s friends are bein’ sliced and diced… and so, he springs to action – but is held off by a ninja with a gun.

The baddies ultimately flee… and it looks like they’ve taken Leiko with them!  Tarr, Reston, and Shang reconnoiter, and we learn that Xiao did not survive the attack.  We also learn that Xiao and Leiko were recently engaged… ya see, Shang noticed that the ring Leiko was wearing (which we saw in that attempted booty call panel) was new.

Much like yesterday’s Man-Thing chapter, I didn’t love this… nor did I hate it.  Despite knowing next to nothing about them, I’m kinda digging these characters.  I guess where I’m struggling a bit is with the threat.  I don’t know that’s it’s really been established properly… especially for folks who are new to this property.

Are we just to assume that Shang-Chi will be attacked by a group of ninjas every night?  Is there going to be some big reveal that the old man Tarr took over for is behind this?  If you’re new to Shang-Chi (or even if you’re familiar with his adventures), will that even “move the needle”?  I dunno.  It feels like the obvious route to take… but that doesn’t make it any more interesting, does it?

For this story… I thought the character bits during the first half were pretty strong, especially those coming from Shang’s sorta-kinda displaced point of view.  He gets this weird melancholy feeling that… despite the fact that he was “away”, life for everyone else went on.  I’ve been in a similar situation as that… and, lemme tell ya, that’s a tough pill to swallow.  The realization that the world, and even your friends’ lives don’t necessarily “revolve around you” is a humbling, and almost spirit-crushing sensation.

Shang sees that Xiao and Leiko have moved on… together.  Black Jack Tarr has taken over whatever the hell organization he’s taken over.  Reston… uh, started smoking.  Life goes on… with or without our involvement.  Trying to reconcile that, with Jack’s suggestion that, with Shang back, everything could go “back to the way it was”, was too much for our hero to handle… leading to his odd (and, assumedly out-of-character) emotional outburst.  Sure, I had a little fun with it during the synopsis… but, it was very effective if you stop and think about it.

Overall… this was a bit of an uneven chapter… could’ve done without the ninja attack, though, it couldn’t be avoided if we want to move the story along.  I’m sure we’ll talk more about Xiao and Leiko as we move forward through the serial.  I’m definitely looking forward to more!

Tomorrow: The Captain America meets… Proto-Parallax!

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