This “Spider-Island” tie in mini started incredibly strong. There was a fatally kinetic quality to the narrative in its beginning and, while it ends well, it lacks that hungry desire to bring you something amazing. This issue doesn’t elevate the tale, which would have been a hard task admittedly. Instead it delves into some relatively rote ideas and concepts. It’s still pretty to look at, and fun to run with, but you’ll be wishing it had lived up to the promise of the start.
We open here on Shang Chi suffering some serious effects from the plague disturbing Manhattan. What started as an intriguing hook slowly becomes something very different. It’s a unique direction to take the tale but one that suffers from perhaps going too far one way. It’s a fine line between exploring new creative avenues and going places no one wants to see — this idea borders that line dangerously. It may appeal to some while others may find it off putting. It’s certainly something you haven’t seen before.
The use of Ai Apaec as the villain is an inspired choice for many reasons. It’s nice to see a new character — created by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios in their mini, “Osborn” — get some play so they don’t end up buried before they were given a chance. Sharing new creations is the best way to world build and expand the tapestry of this shared universe. This villain selection is also an obviously well matched to the ‘Spider-Island’ event since Ai Apaec is like a spider-centaur. He’s formidable enough to face all the Immortal Weapons and feel like a real threat. It’s all well set up, though the conclusion lacks some substance.
A kung fu spectacular is bound to end in fists and moves. While these deliver, it felt like it could have used just a little something extra. It’s a standard finale, fun in places, and there’s enough to enjoy. The final pages, and words, are extremely corny — a kung fu equivalent of patriotically standing in front of a waving flag. This concept works at the end of the second issue because Antony Johnston juxtaposed the words and images well and subverted what you usually think of for that catch phrase. This time, however, it’s played straight and is all the less for it.
The art mash up of Sebastian Fiumara and Leandro Fernandez works well. All of the pages hold the same feel and tone. Fiumara’s action and motion has a more current feel as it blurs across the page in slashes of pencil and shadow. Fernandez’s layouts tend to feel more cluttered, though he does a superb job in a purple double page splash at a crucial moment in the tale.
“Deadly Hands of Kung Fu” has been an extremely fun side tale to the ‘Spider-Island’ event full of kung fu moves and all your favorite high kickers. It’s superb to see Shang Chi get some headline moments and showcase his quality. I can only hope people support this tale because I’d like to see more of the Master of Kung Fu, and Johnston indicates he has more planned if he can get the green light. Let’s all make it happen; the world needs a Shang Chi ongoing.