Master of Kung Fu #1
Writer: Haden Blackman
Penciler: Dalibor Talajic
Inker: Goran Sudzuka
Colorist: Miroslav Mrva
Review by Joey Braccino
Equal parts Drunken Master, Enter the Dragon, and Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker’s epic run on Iron Fist, Haden Blackman’s Master of Kung Fu #1 is a wild and crazy martial arts romp featuring some recognizable faces in new and exciting roles. With Marvel’s latest mega-event, Secret Wars, rolling along, the Battleworld is ripe for exploring and all of our favorite characters are fair game for reimagining. Blackman and a corps of spectacular artists give us Battleworld’s version of K’Un-L’Un, the mystical city from the Iron Fist mythos, and break down the complex politics and character relationships of this new version. Some of it will be quite familiar while other parts will be radically different, but overall Master of Kung Fu is an exciting first issue to what should be a unique reading experience for fans of all sorts.
After a few pages of delightful, mythological exposition that reveals Emperor Zheng Zu (formerly the Marvel U’s Fu Manchu, and also the father of Shang-Chi) to be the ruler of K’Un-L’Un, Blackman reveals our hero, Shang Chi, drunk beyond belief and sitting in his own filth in the middle of town. Confronted by Razor Fist and Typhoid Mary (here called Typhus), Shang-Chi gets to do his best Jackie-Chan-In-Drunken-Master and whoops some @$%. It’s a fun sequence that reveals both Shang-Chi’s new status quo as well as artist Dalibor Talajic’s brilliant choreography and storytelling. Really, one of the most appealing aspects of this book is Talajic’s dynamic pencils, Goran Sudzuka’s tight inks, and Miroslav Mrva’s mash-up of exquisite reds and vibrant greens. The book also makes exceptional use of white space, a rarity in the jam-packed visual style often found in comics today.
Blackman’s script introduces a plethora of alternate versions of some of the most iconic “street-level,” “martial arts” characters from the Marvel canon. Shang-Chi and Fu Manchu, yes, but also Iron Fist, Elektra, and others. Also, surprisingly, Blackman introduces a fascinating iteration of the Morlocks, the underground mutants from the X-Men corner of the universe. Most of the first issue is dedicated to crafting Shang-Chi’s character and conflict and world-building, and Blackman does an excellent job of both.
BUY. Master of Kung Fu is exactly the type of intriguing, engaging reimagining of your favorite Marvel characters that is possible in the new status quo of Battleworld and Secret Wars. Here, Haden Blackman and a stellar corps of artists deliver some exquisite martial arts action and play with some of the coolest characters on the Marvel roster. Check it!
PS – Fun Fact! Shang-Chi’s showcase series, the original Master of Kung Fu, ran from 1974 until 1983!!!