The Deadly Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu # 77 remains one of my favorite comics from my youth. Mike Zeck's art created an almost tangible atmosphere, and writer Doug Moench s story moved me along. Zaran the Weapon Master, who first appeared in that issue, became one of my all-time favorite Marvel villains. I picked up MoKF and the magazine-sized Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu whenever I could find them, which became increasingly rare after Marvel lost the license to the Sax Rohmer characters and collectors started grabbing them up. One Christmas, a friend gave me a hefty stack of MoKF as a gift. I was so grateful.
I am anything but grateful for "The Place of No Mind."
Tan Eng Huat and Craig Yeung's art looks like Mark Bagley trying to imitate the Pander Brothers' line work and failing completely. While I certainly don't believe in the racist notions posited in Golden Age superhero comics, readers are hard pressed to distinguish Asian characters like Leiko Wu and Shang-Chi from caucasians. The action scenes are anything but dynamic, and have the added bonus of receiving some of the most mediocre commentary ever written. For example, Shang-Chi states, "My body executes a series of calculated moves," even though the action in the panel just shows him landing after leaping from a snow mobile into a helicopter. Mike Benson's dialogue for Shang-Chi uses a lot of passive voice, which comes off as extremely clunky, and leads no where. Characterization seems extremely flat and off-balance. Shang-Chi apparently incapacitates Crossbones BETWEEN PANELS. The man who has held his own against Captain America on multiple occasions demonstrates no hand-to-hand prowess in a completely lackluster, one-sided encounter with the son of Fu Manchu (I don't care what Secret Avengers says, his daddy will always be the leader of the Si-Fan to me). The toughs who accost Shang-Chi on the street later give him a tougher time than Crossbones. Then Black Jack Tarr shows up at the end, and he's evolved from one of the best supporting characters in comics into a terrible caricature of Nick Fury.
I was sorely tempted to give this book a single star, but as loathe as I am to admit it, there are a couple of positives. First, the cover by Dave Johnson is attractive. Also, I think the jumpsuit is much more appropriate than the karate gi Shang-Chi wore as a costume in his earlier appearances. In his new role as an Avenger (ugh), Shang-Chi needs some more durable threads. These work and seems homage to Bruce Lee, who played movie roles that required similar wardrobe.
This whole story is an unpolished turd. Shang-Chi says, "Sometimes the universe does not take our wants into consideration." Obviously. I will stick with backissues of MoKF, the Deadly Hands magazine, and the Marvel MAX six-issue mini-series Paul Gulacy beautifully illustrated, because that's "the justice available to me."