Thursday, October 19, 2017

An Entire House of Assassins

Master of Kung Fu #105 (Marvel, October 1981, 50 cents)
"The Razor-Fist Connection" Writer: Doug Moench, Artist: Gene Day, Colors: C. Scheele, Letters: Jim Novak, Editors: Denny O'Neil and Jim Shooter.

The hero of the comic book is one Shang-Chi, son of Dr. Fu Manchu, and the series features supporting characters created by Sax Rohmer, who wrote 13 Fu Manchu novels between 1913 and 1959. This might be the first issue of this series that I've read despite having several in my collection. For some reason, I'd neglected it as a Bruce Lee knockoff and didn't know about the Rohmer connection. That connection is important. This title's pulp fiction lineage mught make it one of the longest-running tie-in or licensed comics, among Conan the BarbarianRom, and Star Wars.

The highlight of the issue is Gene Day's artwork. His line is quite fine; he can pack a lot into a panel without making it overly dense. But it is Day's sense of motion that impresses. Be it a person walking around another over the course of several panels, Shang-Chi jumping over a wall or his enemy Razor-Fist in combat, or Razor-Fist's blade slicing through air, Day's artwork is cinematic in style. He also knows how to anchor a page: the reflection of an anguished face, Pavane centered on an explosion, or Juliette sitting in a wicker (rattan?) chair. Day's figures move through the panels, and the panels move through the page.

As for story, Razor-Fist, working for the reportedly dead Carlton Velcro, search for Shen Kuei, Pavane, and Shang-Chi. He leaves Hong Kong for London, where he finds the latter two, as well as Leiko Wu. There are also parallel subplots detailing the background of Velcro and Razor-Fist, and an exchange between former MI-6 operative Nayland Smith and Fah Lo Suee, daughter of Fu Manchu.

The story is solid, even dropping in at #105, and Day's artwork is wonderful. The letter column features a note from T.M. Maple, whose comments are among the best in fan activity.

Master of Kung Fu #106 (Marvel, November 1981, 50 cents)
"The Assassin Master" Writer: Doug Moench, Artist: Gene Day, Inker: Armando Gil, Colorist: C. Scheele, Letter: Jim Novak, Editor: Denny O'Neil, Editor in Chief: Jim Shooter.

Another excellent issue featuring the artwork of Gene Day, this time with Armando Gil inks, a worthy combination.

After questioning Razor-Fist with Pavane, Shang-Chi and Leiko Wu continue to the Marquesas in search of Carlton Velcro's island base, "an entire house of assassins." They reach the mansion and take on Velcro's guards, then face another Razor-Fist (!!!) and Velcro himself, who proves himself a most disappointing employer.

Day's hallmark fluid motion throughout the page and dominant page anchors are wonderful, and the story resolves well.

Availability: Master of Kung Fu #105-106 are reprinted in Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 4.

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