By Jonathan Hickman (writer), Kody Chamberlin (artist), Mike Benson (writer), Tomm Coker & C.P. Smith (artists), Charlie Huston (writer), Enrique Romero (artist), Robin Furth (writer), Paul Gulacy (artist)
The Story: The good ol’ days of Marvel’s mighty, black and white grindhouse megazines are given a loving homage in this anthology starring the Master of Kung-Fu.
The Good: Being a shameless fan of grindhouse, kung-fu, and nostalgia, I found it hard not to enjoy this comic. The design of everything from the expertly lettered cover, black and white pages, and hilarious faux advertisement on the back cover were all wonderful choices that really gave this the look and feel of those oversized magazines Marvel used to publish in the 70s. It’s also very refreshing to come across a comic that is so shamelessly committed to having a good time. Of the four stories comprising this retro-themed anthology, Hickman’s story “The Annual Race to Benefit Various And Sundry Evil Organizations And Also The Homeless. Now With Beer And Hot Dogs” (and yes, I swear to God that is the name of the story) is by far the most ridiculously entertaining one. Granted, Shang-Chi plays second fiddle to none other than Deadpool, but what the hell, when Hickman includes a fully functional gameboard within his plot I’m willing to overlook paltry details like the absence of the main freaking character. The other stories here were much more conventional, but every bit as satisfying. Of those, I thought the story by Huston and Romero best captured the look and feel of the old Gulacy Shang-Chi stories, and the prose story by Furth and Gulacy was an unexpected delight. This was a vastly different book than anything Marvel’s currently doing, and I was very pleased with the finished product.
The Not So Good: Although I quite enjoyed the retro design of this book, I can’t say that it’s going to appeal to everyone. This comic utterly lacks the melodrama, spandex, and face-punching antics of the typical superhero comic, and that alone is bound to drive away tons of readers. Benson’s story was an admirable effort, but didn’t quite resonate with me in the way I wanted it to. The use of Chinese(?) characters in the dialogue balloons become quickly tiresome, and for me anyway didn’t add anything to the overall reading experience. However, that being said, if Marvel should ever choose to do more Shang-Chi stories, I hope they’ll bring Tomm Coker on board, as his gritty, Sienkiewicz-styled art perfectly complimented this kind of story.
Conclusion: I was honestly surprised with how much I liked this book, and would love to see Marvel use this format more often to dust off some of their forgotten heroes. Can’t go wrong with 48 pages of kung-fu goodness.