The world's greatest Martial Artist returned this week with an all new Black and White one-shot. And even though it's got Deadpool in it, it's still worth getting.
Shang-Chi: Master Of Kung-Fu One-Shot
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Benson, Charlie Huston and Robin Furth
Artwork by Kody Chamberlin, Tomm Coker, CP Smith, Enrique Romero and Paul Gulacy
Thanks to the Immortal Iron Fist, Marvel's kung-fu comics have enjoyed a bit of a mini-renaissance lately, there's the Immortal Weapons mini, and Wolverine took on the Sons Of The Tiger, but there's one character who's been left out, the so called Master of the artform, Shang-Chi. I suspect this may be because of the rights situation involving his father, Fu Manchu, who Marvel are not allowed to even mention, this one-shot manages to side-step that by simply referring to the character as 'Father', and with that, we are treated to 3 of the most enjoyable stories of the year, all rendered in lovely traditional black and white.
The first story, written by Nightly News and Secret Warriors writer Jonathan Hickman is one of the most insane things I've seen in a Marvel Comic ever, it's basically Shang-Chi and Deadpool in Wacky Races, and it is awesome. I've made a big deal about hating Deadpool, but I don't mind him in small doses, and he works well here as a foil to the more laidback Shang. This story is full of crazy stuff, the Hitler Twins, Luchadors, demon waitresses, and Human Hotdogs. It's like a Grindhouse take on Shang-Chi, and for a story that doesn't even feature any Kung-Fu, it's still great. Hickman also shows the same willingness to experiment with the comics form that his Indie work does, there's a page of Maps, and a 2-page board-game for the reader to play. Hickman has shown another side to himself here, he can be funny as all hell. The artwork by Kody Chamberlin is scratchy and earthy, but it fits well with the insane tone of the book.
The 2nd story comes from Moon Knight writer Mike Benson, but the real star here is artist Tomm Coker (ably assisted by CP Smith), this is one of the coolest looking comics I've ever seen, and one of the best uses of Black and White, a film zip-tone is used, and it just looks like the slickest thing ever. The story isn't especially exciting, Shang-Chi basically takes on the son of an old villain, but it's told so damn stylishly, it doesn't matter. Another brilliant touch is that the story is actually in Chinese, with English translations along the bottom, it's a very cool idea, and since the story is set in Hong Kong, and all the character are Chinese, it makes sense. The first story was Shang-Chi in the Grindhouse, this is Shang-Chi in Film Noir.
The final story is by Charlie Huston, another former Moon Knight writer, and features artwork by Enrique Romero which could have come straight out of Deadly Hands, and is the most like those old stories, featuring Shang taking on his brother Midnight Sun. This is the most traditional story, and is sure to bring a smile to any old-school fans, but for me, a relative neophyte, it was the lesser of the 3 stories, it seemed like a pastiche, but the art was wonderful, and I loved how the letterer used the black and white to the fullest by having Shang-Chi's caption boxes be white, and Midnight's black, another nice touch in a book full of cool touches.
We also get a text piece from Dark Tower's Robin Furth, which purports to be the words from Shang-Chi himself, it adds a lot of depth to the character, and a verisimilitude, as all the Kung-Fu techniques mentioned in the piece are real. Making it even better is the accompanying artwork by Paul Gulacy, who we all know rocks the shit on Shang-Chi.
This was a great one-shot, and a love-letter to those 70s black and white magazines, and it really showed how good a character Shang-Chi is, each story is totally different, yet true to the spirit, if you're a fan of the character from way back, or a fan of Iron Fist, or just a fan of brilliant art and fun storytelling, you can't go wrong with this.