Bargain Comic Reviews

New Reviews of Old Comics

Master of Kung Fu #51 (Apr. 1977)

Purchase price: $1

Chalk my purchase of this issue to my what-the-heck-I’ll-try-anything mentality these days when it comes to buying comics.  Was Shang-Chi ever a big name in the comic world?  I don’t know.  The martial arts comics (much less the movies) were never my thing.  Seems like if this guy were part of the Marvel universe a villain like Fin Fang Foom, Magneto or the Hobgoblin would just clean his clock in short order.  Heck, if someone pulled a gun on him, what is the master of kung fu going to do, stop 16 shots in rapid fire succession?  That’s pushing the boundaries even for comic book reality.

When a cover touts something like “A new and exciting direction” for the title or main character it’s usually a sure sign the title is within months of cancellation, and that is on this cover.  Any idea how much longer Master of Kung Fu went on past #51?  I bet it wasn’t much longer, though I’ve been known to be wrong before.  This issue “Brass and Blackness (A Death Movie!!)”written by Doug Moench and drawn by Jim Craig is billed as being an epilogue, so we start with a shirtless Shang-Chi sitting in a giant spaceship right near Earth’s moon.  Heck, if I had a body that looked even half that good I’d never wear shirt.  Not even in the winter. The son of Fu Man Chu is returning from some mission in space and attending a funeral on Earth.  The handy flashback narration device helps catch us up on how we got to this point.  This involves numerous narrated fight scenes where the master of kung fu takes on multiple armed goons and wins (there goes my gun theory).  Shang-Chi is also part of a spy agency that he is now ready to quit, but as any Prisoner fan can attest to you just can’t quit a spy agency once you’ve started with them; spy agencies have a lot of trust issues.  Shang-chi’s defection sets off a chain reaction of spy resignations including one woman who is chasing after Shang-Chi as the story ends.  I guess this is the exciting new direction that helps make up “the issue you must not miss.”

I have to admit I went into this issue with low expectations figuring it would just be panel after panel of martial arts fighting that defies all logic.  Master of Kung Fu turned out to be a pretty good story with some interesting character development.  The art, starting with Paul Gulacy’s very cool cover was eye catching and complemented the story nicely.  I found myself actually interested in what happens next with the storyline though realize my odds of finding #52 in a bargain box will be slim.  I’m still not running out to watch Bruce Lee movies, but I’ll definitely read more Master of Kung Fu issues as I happen to find them.


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