Friday, October 20, 2017

Men Sculpted into Monsters

Master of Kung Fu #110 (Marvel, March 1982, 60 cents)
"Perilous Reign" Script/Plot: Doug Moench, Pencils/Plot: Gene Day, Inker: Jack Abel, Letterer: Jim Novak, Colorist: C. Scheele, Editor: Ralph Macchio, Editor in Chief: Jim Shooter.

During a rain storm at Nayland Smith's Stormhaven Castle in England, Shang-Chi and Leiko Wu spar in more ways than one. Smith, Soviet defector Mia Lessing (the Dark Angel blurbed at the end of #106; #107-109 might contain her introductory story arc) discuss a new threat with Black Jack Tarr and Clive Reston. A Russian trained in the Chinese martial art style Naked Kill called the Ghost Maker plans to procure "a new and extremely deadly weapon" from a secret base in the Sussex moors. While Mia and Clive engage in some hanky panky, Shang-Chi, Leiko, and Black Jack aim to stop him.

This issue is dense in text; Moench's story expounds on balancing Eastern and Western philosophies, respecting your fully by fully engaging with them when you spend time together, the Ghost Maker's back story, as well as his motivations. But it works. It is exactly the right amount of tet.

Day's artwork and page design—inked by Jack Abel—accommodates the writing well. In addition to the dominant imagery, page anchors, and motion through panels noticed in previous issues, Day also employs book ending to position characters against each other. He also incorporates the yin-yang symbol to further represent duality, borders a panel in blood, and frames a panel in the word "danger." When it rains, it rains hard, and when things go vertical, you can feel the vertiginous heights. Quite innovative!

The lettercol "Missives to the Master" includes another letter from T.M. Maple, as well as a postal service statement of ownership. In September 1981, Marvel printed almost 250,000 copies of that given issue.

Master of Kung Fu #117 (Marvel, October 1982, 60 cents)
"Devil Deeds Done in Darkness" Scripter: Doug Moench, Penciler and Inker: Gene Day, Colorist: Christie Scheele, Letterer: Janice Chang, Editor: Ralph Macchio, Editor in Chief: Jim Shooter.

This issue is a doozy. Not only is Fu Manchu himself prominently featured, but Day's artwork really rocks. Highlights include a two-page spread of an M.C. Escher-like maze of stairs and statues, panels within a panel as Shang-Chi and Death-Dealer plummet in the flooding crypt, and an excellent page in which Shang-Chi navigates additional stairs and encounters three laboratory-spawned creatures, "men sculpted into monsters." Day also book ends a scene change on a two-page spread and throws in a fun ballet form as Dark Angel fights Shang-Chi.

The plot entails Shang-Chi escaping from his father with the help of hungry rats, the destruction of Clive Reston's home, and Nayland Smith's abduction. What a wonderful comic series. I am glad I finally actually read some issues! I will have to read more.

Availability: Master of Kung Fu #110 and #117 are reprinted in Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 4.

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