Despite generally loving Hickman’s Avengers run, I do have one problem with it, and it’s that he takes very little time to focus on the characters. There are so many members of the Avengers right now, and they rarely get any individual moments or character development. So, for me, the fact that Avengers World seems to using each issue as a specific character-focus is great news.
Much like #2 was all about Smasher, this third instalment was all Shang-Chi, and when I say all, I mean all. He’s the only Avenger who actually speaks in this issue (Wolverine, Black Widow and Falcon appear in one, wordless panel) and the whole 20 pages are one big kung-fu fight between Shang-Chi and Gorgon. So, you know, it’s pretty fucking awesome. I’m sure there will be some readers who are annoyed at the story progression being slowed down for a very extended fight, but I really don’t care about that when the fight is written and drawn so well. Hickman, Spencer and Caselli really deliver a special experience here and the whole issue had me grinning from ear to ear.
The fight is awesome, but you can’t really write about individual moves and stuff like that, so the most pertinent thing for this review is the flashbacks used, and how effective they are. Throughout the fight, Shang-Chi thinks back to previous Kung-Fu masters and uses them for inspiration. He remembers a Monk who was betrayed by his Emperor, a Peasant Girl who fought back against raiders who attacked her village, and a Policeman who continued to fight a thief even after he had been stabbed with a poison dagger. There are 3 different colourists credited for this issue, but I’m not sure if each handled different flashbacks, but the way they used different colouring was very effective. The colours were washed out, made to look like ancient asian artwork, but also, there was a heavy focus on the red clothing of each warrior. This highlighted their connection to Shang-Chi, who is also clad in red.
However, even after drawing on these legends, Shang-Chi is defeated by Gorgon, who slashes his stomach. ‘How can this be?’, you ask, well, it’s because the legends Shang was remembering actually ended with each of the heroes dying. The Policeman, the Peasant Girl and the Monk, they all died. And so too does Shang-Chi, as Gorgon throws him off of the dragon’s head to his death. Now, of course, we all know that Shang-Chi won’t die here (they just announced a new Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu mini-series), but it was still a great, surprising way to end the issue, and I can’t wait to see where Hickman and Spencer are going.
I really liked this issue, and I loved that it gave me something I totally wasn’t expecting when I bought it, more comics should be like this, and break away from the regular structure. Yes, there are other groups of Avengers out there and other subplots, but who cares, there’s Kung-Fu to be had!