One very promising quality of this book is that writer Mike Benson has clearly done his homework on Shang-Chi's world. Instead of placing someone popular like Captain America into a big role or some slapping A-listers on the cover to catch more eyes, Steve Rogers only serves a completely minimal function and quite a few faces from Chi's history make more extended appearances. It's nice to see Benson isn't blatantly using more popular names in an attempt to make the book more alluring and apparently seems to have faith in Chi's unique world. That said, new readers will likely have to search a name or two in our database when they're done with the issue because not much backstory is offered for these individuals.
As for the narrative, it's purely build-up in this chapter. Now, I'm sure some of you are afraid that means paragraphs of exposition, but that isn't the case at all. This is a quick read because things move along so swiftly. We jump from one scene to the next where characters have organic conversations and captions upon captions of forced remarks aren't included. It'll be over before you know it (there's 2 dialogue-free pages, by the way) and by the time you reach that final panel, odds are it has accomplished just enough to hook you. Even though the solicits spoil someone's death, I'll play it safe and won't mention their name. Even though I knew the person would be killed, the scene still managed to shock. I thought it was over when the person was struck by a major blow, but then something gasp-worthy and downright horrific happened. It'll absolutely make you want to see Chi eventually get some revenge, that's for sure.
While we aren't treated to a very lengthy fight sequence, we get just enough to appreciate Chi's technique. There's a feat or two in there that fans of the character are certain to appreciate (come on, the dude pulled out a specific tooth mid-fight!) and the panels right before the melee begins were cleverly executed.
Artist Tan Eng Huat has a unique style and it produces a lot of energy in some moments, but there were more than a handful of times where too many lines gave characters odd looking faces or they were placed in somewhat awkward poses. There's some panels where they went too heavy on tying to add shading and depth to the characters' faces and it's really noticeable. I won't lie, I was pretty disappointed with the Crossbones scene, too. Chi taking on one of Captain America's foes has the potential to be epic. But instead of a thrilling sequence, it's brief and there's no actual "fight" between them. We're treated to captions which make the scene sound awesome, but the excitement just wasn't on those pages, unfortunately.
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG-FU #1 is the master of setting the stage for what's to come. Benson gives us the bare basics of the narrative, briefly reminds us that yes, Shang-Chi's currently an Avenger and a beast in unarmed combat, and ends it all on a note that promises more excitement is right around the corner. It gets the job done and establishes everything in a fast-paced and enjoyable manner.