Having Shang-Chi as a lead protagonist is great. His levelheaded approach to conflicts is a nice change of pace and some of the internal dialogue Mike Benson gives him is well-written. In fact, Chi's thoughts during a fight turns out to be more entertaining than the fight itself. While said fight isn't anything out of the ordinary, it still manages to become an amusing melee to witness.
The narrative itself isn't pulling any truly shocking twists or delivering powerful hooks just yet, but the pacing is tight and there's never really is a dull moment. That said, the basics behind Benson's story has the potential to turn into so much more and I'm hoping we'll see it expand or become more emotionally gripping as it progresses. As for right now, there's at least an engaging exchange between Chi and the Skull Crusher. Additionally, the man's claims produces one of the most powerful images in the issue.
Unfortunately, the artwork is very inconsistent -- almost appearing rushed in some cases -- and this is a huge distraction throughout the issue. Several characters strike stiff and awkward poses, attention to expressions and facial structure varies, and the way some panels are focused (most notably an angle looking down at characters) make the anatomy look off and really doesn't compliment the style. The coloring is inconsistent at times, too. A man's tattoo changes colors, sometimes backgrounds undergo seemingly random design alterations, the bartender's bow tie switched colors, and a shade of green spilled off of a building and became a character's outline. These are just the examples that immediately come to mind, as well.
It's very disappointing that Shang-Chi doesn't have an opportunity to shine before two characters make a seemingly random cameo. The title alone implies great displays of action, but unfortunately, the battle isn't anything out of the ordinary and, aside from captions, doesn't make us appreciate Chi's abilities. On top of that, nothing in the story really stands out and the villain's have dialogue that comes off as a little generic. So far, it's all feeling very familiar.
Everything in me wants to love this book. I've always wanted to see more of Shang-Chi and I love Mike Benson's work with Deadpool and Moon Knight. Sadly, nothing about this issue feels unique. It's basically by the numbers and then hindered by some very inconsistent visuals. And you'd expect a book called "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" to show off the lead's hand-to-hand abilities, right? Hopefully the narrative will become more compelling in the next issue. Even though I'm not the biggest fan around of this issue, I simply can't turn my back on Chi just yet. Here's hoping the third chapter is an improvement.