Writer: CM Punk
Artist: Dalibor Talajic
Colors: Erick Arciniega
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
I’m not sure why Marvel felt the need to revive Master of Kung Fu. I cannot imagine that there was an overwhelming demand for a revival of the seminal ‘70s & ‘80s Kung Fu masterpiece. Set firmly in the martial art zeitgeist of the ‘70s and ninja laden pop culture of the early ‘80s Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu was a comic started as a fad but morphed into a compelling read and one of the finest Marvel offerings of the time period. Yet it concluded with Master of Kung Fu #125 in 1983 in a way that if Shang Chi was never seen again it would have been fine, as he served his purpose, concluded his mission, and would have fit perfectly into the great tales of the time period. But Shang Chi didn’t go away and he has appeared frequently over the years, often as a guest star or in a solo mini series and even as an Avenger during the Hickman run but never was their an attempt to rekindle his classic series as it doesn’t fit in the modern world of comics. Unfortunately neither does Master of Kung Fu #126.
Master of Kung Fu #126 accomplishes nothing. Even if that was the intent, which it seems to be with the title being Shang Chi’s Day Off, it was a pointless endeavor that went nowhere, did nothing for the character, and was a hard read. I’m aware of who CM Punk is. His WWE stardom occurred well past my enjoyment of pro-wrestling but I did watch his UFC debut a few months ago and even though it didn’t go his way I have to applaud someone for leaving their comfort zone and tackling an entirely new sport, especially one as violent as MMA. But the only comic of his I had ever read was a short story he did in a Thor Annual a few years ago and it was less then memorable since I frankly can’t remember it. With that I don’t feel Master of Kung Fu #126 will be a lasting memory for me either. This issue felt nothing like the original title and if I wasn’t told this was Shang Chi then I would not have been able to identify him as the character I knew and loved from his original title. I couldn’t tell if this story was trying to be funny or if it was just intended to be light hearted or an action tale and I’m not even sure the creators knew what they wanted this story to be. It was full of bad puns, hapless ninjas, and an uninspired villain whose motivations are unclear and the one identifiable facet of his being is his name sounds life Dr. Malpractice. There’s no connection to the original Master of Kung Fu title, no returning villains or supporting characters (which I know can have something to do with copyrights) or a faithful interpretation of Shang Chi. This is not what I wanted from a continuation (at least numerically) of Master of Kung Fu. I wanted a comic I could recognize. Not one I want to forget.
Verdict: Unfortunately this is a Shang Chi book in name only. There is no connection to the original Master of Kung Fu and it felt like the creators have never read an issue of the series prior to setting out to create this issue. If you need a Shang Chi fix invest in the beautiful omnibuses Marvel has been releasing over the past year as Master of Kung Fu #126 will not fulfill your need.