Marvel Comics Presents #3 (Master of Kung Fu)
“Crossing Lines, Part 3 of 8: Fish”
Writer – Doug Moench
Pencils – Tom Grindberg
Inks – Dave Cockrum
Letters – Agustin Mas
Colors – Petra Scotese
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh
Chief – Tom DeFalco
We’re back at our… for whatever reason… most popular feature! Not sure what it is, but for two-weeks in a row, Master of Kung Fu is really gettin’ those clicks! Whether these are actual readers or bot-squatters, I haven’t the foggiest… but, in this game… we take what we can get!
Let’s do it.
We pick up three days after the attack on Xiao’s home and the abduction of Leiko. Our man, Shang-Chi is pounding the pavement looking for answers… but ain’t getting none. He doesn’t seem overly trusting of the Hong Kong citizens… nor should he, the answers he gets seem dodgy at best here. He next heads up a hill to Xiao’s final resting place. Black Jack Tarr is there paying his respects… and openly questions whether or not he’s got it in him to be a leader of this little group of anti-radicals, or whatever. Shang-Chi takes a seat and they begin a weird, and somewhat contentious chat. Tarr takes this odd tack of trying to get Shang-Chi to work for him… by more or less blaming him for everything that’s gone down during the past couple of chapters.
Our hero doesn’t really initially address the accusation… he’s still lost in thoughts of Leiko. Here, Tarr, finally gives us the meat-and-potatoes of this whole deal. Ya see, Hong Kong will soon no longer be under British Protectorate… and, as such, rival terrorist organizations have combined forces to kind of stake their claim(s) on the place. We also learn that Tarr n’ the Gang are doing this job gratis. Xiao came to them with a story… but no shekels. Since these mercs really believed in this endeavor, they took the gig for free.
Shang-Chi doesn’t agree to help just yet… but, they head back home anyway. There, Reston… that geek who started smoking to look Hong Kong Cool last chapter, is a few bottles deep… and is wielding a pistol. After nearly shooting Tarr and Chi, he reveals that someone dropped off a package for the latter.
In it… well, some fish. Also… a hand. Leiko’s hand! With Xiao’s ring still on its finger! Our hero is unphased, and rather than freaking out at the sight of the woman he loves’ severed mitt, he just asks Tarr if Leiko and Xiao were lovers! Dude’s got tunnel-vision… though, I guess I “get it”.
We wrap up with our hero finally deciding to at least hear out Tarr’s plan. He isn’t “all in” with the mission… but, if their gig intertwines with his hunt for Leiko… they may as well have each others’ backs.
A very “tawky” third chapter… but, I tell ya what… this story needed exactly this!
I remember early on in our Action Comics Daily coverage… when a given eight-pager didn’t make much sense, I would try and wait until we got three-chapters in before making any sort of of sweeping quality-leveling judgment. Way I looked at it, three anthology chapters were akin to a single issue’s worth of a story. 24 pages, give or take.
Here we are, 24 pages (or one single issue) in on our Master of Kung Fu serial… and, ya know… this is pretty good stuff! These three chapters would fit nicely into a single issue… get us through all the preliminary exposition… address the threat… give us some tension… set us a goal. These together would make a fine first issue! Unlike Man-Thing which sorta leaves us with more questions (and less interest in finding answers), Master of Kung Fu lays a firm foundation to build upon.
Shang-Chi’s obsession with Leiko is interesting… and really helps to depict him as conflicted in his mission. Really, as we open this chapter, he doesn’t even have a mission, per say. He’s just looking for Leiko… and screw Black Jack’s gig. His inability to purge feelings of worry and jealousy aside to focus was really well done as well. Feeling bad that Xiao was murdered… before remembering that he died at Leiko’s bedside. Seeing Leiko’s severed hand… and only really being able to see Xiao’s ring upon its finger. Really good stuff here.
Overall… I’d be more than happy if the subsequent chapters of this feature took a similar “tawky” and “internalized” tone. This was a pleasure to read… and I’m happy we finally got a little backstory to our setting.
Tomorrow: Revoltin’ Developments wit’ da Fear Bug…