With the enforcers of Zheng Zu’s rule fast approaching, Shang-Chi must make a decision as to whether or not he will assist his newfound allies. Master of Kung Fu #2 continues to up the stakes for the martial artist, but is the issue good?
Master of Kung Fu #2 (Marvel Comics)
Master of Kung Fu #2 opens with a flashback to the ancient traditions of K’un Lun, stylistically calling back to the opening of the first issue. Only this time, it is not Shang-Chi telling the tale but a member of the Red Hand working for Zheng Zu. Whereas the debut opened on a gag with Shang-Chi drunkenly talking to a dog, this chapter shows that the villains are no laughing matter. The Red Hand is joined by the Laughing Skull (seemingly an analog for Taskmaster) and Iron Fist.
As Iron Fist puts a chi-empowered finger to the heart of a citizen, the issue cuts to Shang-Chi, still in hiding along with Kitten, Callisto, and the other outcasts. Shang-Chi is begrudgingly, and drunkenly, pointing out the flaws in the fighting styles of his new companions. He easily takes them down, and laughs at them for their efforts. However Kitten is not dismayed. She tries to convince Shang-Chi to stay and train them, pointing out the deficiency of each member. Callisto joins in, pointing out that since Shang-Chi was trained by Zheng Zu, he could teach them the ways of the Ten Rings. This infuriates Shang-Chi and he points out the cruel methods that his father used to train him. It’s a pointedly well-executed scene, and writer Haden Blackman uses it to expertly divulge just enough information for the reader to understand the members of Callisto’s group and their motivations.
With the issue more focused on character development, artist Dalibor Talajic gets to show off another aspect of his skill set. While there are still some powerful displays of martial arts (including some very cool mystical powers), this issue allows Talajic to show a wide range of character work. There’s the romantic affection shown between Rahne and Cy, the fury and frustration of Iron Fist when his attack is foiled, and the sheer panic Razor Fist displays when he realizes that he may lose the body part for which he is named for.
One of the significant improvements that Master of Kung Fu #2 has made over its predecessor is the establishment of its villains. The opening scene hints at the power that the Laughing Skull, Iron Fist, and the Red Hand possess, and Shang-Chi’s own power suggests the might that his father possesses. Not to mention the cameo of this domain’s enigmatic Silver Surfer. All of this goes a long way toward building Zheng Zu as a credible threat. In the first issue, readers simply heard about him, but now Haden Blackman slowly reveals the true extent of his power and control.
One thing that can’t help but be noticed is Master of Kung Fu‘s deliberate pace. Both issues of the series have allowed plenty of time for the characters and the scenes to breathe, which is fantastic to read. But this is a four-issue limited series, and it’s not quite apparent how this series will resolve itself without a drastic change of pace (or maybe even a training montage!).
Is It Good?
Master of Kung Fu #2 continues the good start the series had and actually improves on its predecessor by better establishing the characters around Shang-Chi. His school of misfits is a clever way to work in several X-Men characters, and its nice to see the foes pursuing him are equally diverse. This issue also better establishes the stakes compared to its preceding chapter. Master of Kung Fu has already solidified itself as one of the best tie-ins to Secret Wars. The only real flaw now is that it is halfway over.