Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now, Daredevil versus Ghostface, that would be awesome. This? Not so much.

Now you see why he's the Master!
Even though I think I have exactly two issues of Master of Kung-Fu, I know that one of Shang-Chi's storytelling dilemmas is that dated evil Asian Fu Manchu isn't in the public domain yet; which means that ofttimes Shang references his evil dad without being able to say his name. Another problem? Most of his villains get killed pretty quickly, then you have to go through the hassle of resurrecting them. We've seen the Midnight Son here before, brought back as a Silver Surfer antagonist, and there's been multiple Razorfists, but this time, it's Ghostmaker, returning in Daredevil Annual #10. ("Vendettas" Written by Greg Wright, pencils by Kris Renkewitz, inks by Charles Barnett III.)

Luckily for the writers, they had a plot device that would bring Ghostmaker back quickly: resurrection by the evil ninjas of the Hand. Nevermind that stunts like that use up a lot of juice, and the Hand have lost a lot of guys like Kirigi that they should probably bring back before they go down the list of old MOKF bad guys...
Yeah, not a great comic here.
According to the Grand Comics Database, Ghost Maker (or Ghost-Maker, I'm going to stick with Ghostmaker) fought Shang in Master of Kung Fu #110; I had to look that up since there was no footnote. And I can understand why: the recap of Ghostmaker fighting Shang, while trying to kill the Queen of England by seeding clouds with acid rain, sounds pretty good, maybe better than this issue. Unfortunately, GM's plan was foiled by shifting winds, which blew the acid rain his way, and he ended up melted. Not like the Wicked Witch, more like Toht from the end of Raiders.

It's mentioned in passing that Ghostmaker was Russian, but he doesn't look Russian to me anywhere here. And he gets hung up on honor, so he seems like the typical ninja type. Still, cool name. The Snakeroot branch of the Hand bring him back to kill Daredevil and Elektra, before their boss the Beast gets wind of their slip-ups. So...to fix their in-house mistakes, the Snakeroot is hiring outside and delegating it out? Great plan, if you're an 80's cartoon villain: not unlike Cobra Commander or Skeletor, I think they're planning this mission with their only goal being to yell at their flunkies when they inevitably fail.

This story was set right after Daredevil took the armored costume and the identity of Jack Batlin: Matt Murdock was believed dead by the world at large, and was laying pretty low: even Matt's oldest friends like Karen Page, Foggy Nelson, Ben Urich, and the Black Widow thought he was dead. Now, if they had seen Matt in his armored costume, Urich and the Widow would've probably recognized him instantly, but for now, the only person in DD's life is the resurrected Elektra.
A weird thought, since Matt seems to beat up a good portion of New York City on a regular basis.
And Daredevil isn't too sure how he feels about that. Matt had long since worked through his grief at Elektra's death; and now she's back and more of a killer than she was before. With her dark side returned to her, Elektra was whole, and wanted to get back together with Matt, but that may have been more because she didn't have anyone else. You get the feeling she's trying to figure out what to do with herself, just as the writers try to figure out what to do with her, besides piss off Frank Miller.

More after the break, including a melting face!
As Elektra pines, Ghostmaker attacks DD; and Elektra recognizes the stench of the Beast. (Axe?) Ghostmaker can't take them both at the same time, so he flies off, escaping with Elektra's sai. She's noticeably pissed, but Daredevil points out that wasn't hers, it belonged Erynys, the Hand's evil clone-Elektra.
Why Shang-Chi is dressed up like Quick-kick, I couldn't guess.
Meanwhile, Shang-Chi is getting in a little sparring time with Nick Fury, and a suspiciously redheaded agent Woo--ok, somebody screwed up there. Shang is rocking a terrible headband as well; between the interiors and the cover, he appears to have bought his ensemble at the S.H.I.E.L.D. gift shop.

Fury wants to hire Shang-Chi to bring in Elektra, since he doesn't buy that she's on their side. (A reference to the attempt at the time to shoehorn Miller and Sienkiewicz's Elektra: Assassin into continuity.) An Elektra sighting is reported, noting the return of Ghostmaker: Shang admits he didn't personally see GM melt, but he sounds like he's trying to convince himself. He takes the job, but Fury seems to realize Shang's looking to find Ghostmaker.

As Daredevil goes looking for the Snakeroot, Ghostmaker's eyeballing Elektra, but Shang finds him first, throwing down the ceremonial white hankie...
No!  Not...the red tunic!
The coloring is crap this issue.

Elektra considers getting involved, then doesn't. Even with her distraction, Shang is more than a match for Ghostmaker, who is forced to use weapons, then escape. Shang believes GM to be dead, but he's just getting a little lecture from his Snakeroot boss, who's a little upset that they could have Shang-Chi on their backs now.
Yeah, that should be the end of Shang's fighting career there...
Ghostmaker catches up to Daredevil, who's been doing an extensive search of the tunnels under New York City. DD gives him a pretty good fight, but is on the ropes when Shang and Elektra arrive. Foregoing honor again (even though outnumbered) Ghostmaker throws the sai at Shang--which, by these pictures, should be sticking out the other side of him. Shang pulls it out, which probably could've cost him that arm, but he tosses the barbed sai to Elektra, who plants it in Ghostmaker's skull. He melts, again.
Well, that should be the end of that...
Elektra stabbing GM is in silhouette, presumably because it would be too graphic for a Comics-Code approved comic. Or artist fatigue, since the next page? All silhouette, and I guess it gets plumb breezy down in those tunnels, since Elektra's headband and sash are blowing back like there's a 40 mph headwind. Shang's not going to take Elektra in for S.H.I.E.L.D, but he cautions her to stay hidden. While he wasn't about to let S.H.I.E.L.D. have her, Daredevil's a little upset that Elektra can go from calm to killer just like that.

And on the last page, the Snakeroot plan to save Ghostmaker for later, after they purge all his little grudges. Silently, Ghostmaker adds the Snakeroot head Daito to the list...his mask is also wrecked, over the course of the issue, until it covers little except his nose.

I wanted to give this annual an E for Effort, but man...there's multiple coloring errors that are at odds with the dialog. Which isn't great either. I have no idea if Ghostmaker looked something like this before his resurrection, but I doubt it. And Shang-Chi's huge ponytail, like Elektra's sash and headband, blow in the breeze constantly, even inside, or underground. But this issue is indicative of where Daredevil was at the time: lost.
Famously, Paul Verhoeven refused to cut even a second of the crowd-pleasing 'melting-man' scene...and I'm thinking of something else.
Mind you, some of the panels of Ghostmaker melting aren't bad...By the way, didn't Shang-Chi appear a few times in Uncanny X-Men with a ton of tattoos? That were never seen again?


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