Friday, December 30, 2011

"The End" Week: Master of Kung Fu #125!

Here we have another Marvel last issue, where the hero falls into the same trap that befell the Micronauts and ROM: what's left after you defeat your series' big bad, final boss villain; and how can you go on when your licensing agreement is up? From 1983, Master of Kung Fu #125, "Atonement" Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by William Johnson and Alan Kupperberg, inks by Mike Mignola and Alan Kupperberg.

The titular Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi, was reeling from three losses: his father and main bad guy, Fu Manchu; and longtime series writer Doug Moench and inker/penciller Gene Day. Day had recently died, Moench had left the book after a hundred issue run, and Marvel was probably losing or letting lapse the rights to Fu: Shang-Chi was Marvel-owned, but for years later would have to refer to his dad obliquely as "that guy" or such.

Even though Fu Manchu was a complete monster, Shang-Chi is feeling a colossal amount of guilt over killing him; and this issue was all about him working through it. There's an all-too-brief battle with a giant mutated turtle--not Gamera, but how cool would that be? Then Shang-Chi travels with a troupe of actors, but freaks out ala Claudius in Hamlet during a play called "the Accursed Son."

Later, Shang is attacked by a Noh-masked figure; but this is open to interpretation: it might be a minion of Fu Manchu's seeking revenge, it could be a drug trip from drinking out of his father's chalice, it might be one of the actors trying to help Shang work through his pain (iffy) or it could be a manifestation for his guilt. In the end, though, purified by battle and storm, Shang-Chi feels he has achieved atonement, and settles down for the life of a simple fisherman.

That probably looked like the last we'd see of the Master of Kung Fu, but Shang-Chi would return some five years later in Marvel Comics Presents #1; reunited with Doug Moench and his supporting cast.

No comments: