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Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 2 Hardcover – September 27, 2016
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It is in the oversized Omnibus format which features larger pages then a traditional Hard Cover like a Marvel Masterwork. It is 664 pages and weighs over 4 lbs. The restoration work is excellent and on par with a Marvel Masterworks. We get quality paper with sharp crisp images and vibrant colors.
The book comes with a choice of dust jackets and Amazon has displayed the correct cover. A new John Cassaday cover. The limited edition dust jacket only available through the Direct Market uses a Paul Gulacy classic image. The interior cover (see photo) is black with yellow, white and red lettering.
The volume is bookend with an excellent six page introduction from Doug Moench and original art and ads in the back of the book. Writer Doug Moench introduction is so good and insightful O found myself going back and re-reading portions after reading sections in the volume. It also includes all covers and letter pages.
While the first volume is also excellent this volume exceeds it with brilliant globe hoping story telling from Doug Moench and over 200 pages of Paul Gulacy at the top of his form. We also get some good art from Mike Zeck, Jim Craig, Keith Pollard, Sal Buscema and Pat Broderick.
The book opens with Master Of King Fu Annual #1 done by Doug Moench and Keith Pollard. This is a fun double sized story featuring Shang-Chi and Ironfist. The story is written first person from IronFist's perspective. They end up in some medieval fantasy world more fitting for Conan then Martial Artists.
Master Of Kung Fu #38 and #39 is a two parter from Moench and Gulacy that sets the bar the series. Dan Adkins inks the masterpiece. Mr Adkins is the best inker that is not Gulacy himself. This is the story that introduces the The Cat.
MOKF #40 is the sole story in this volume inked by Gulacy himself and it looks brilliant. Unfortunately it put him even more behind schedule and MOKF #41 becomes a fill in done by Sal Buscema. This is a story about Shang-Chi's boyhood and features Midnight.
Gulacy returns for the Shockwave two parter. Tom Sutton destroys Gulacy's pencils so badly that they apologize in a printed letter page later on. Jack Abel inks the 2nd part and is better but not as good as Adkins or even the later Pablo Marcus.
MOKF #44 starts probably Shang-Chi's greatest Opus which runs six issues with prologue and epilogue eight issues. It ends in MOKF #51 with an epilogue by Jim Craig. The other seven issues are all Paul Gulacy up and running on all cylinders. It features the long awaited return of Fu Manchu plus the return of his daughter Fah Lo Suee and if that isn't enough another Son Of Fu Manchu.
Up to this time Marvel had a ban preventing stories longer then two issues. Now days with decompressed storytelling and writing for the trade being the norm an 8 part story was no big deal, but in 1976 this thing kicked butt.
Moench has alternating characters narrate the six main chapters. So chapter one is Shang-Chi while two is Clive Reston ( the son of James Bond). Three is present girlfriend of Shang-Chi Leiko Wu. She is also past girlfriend of Reston which adds to the tension. Four is by the faithful Black Jack Tarr while five is his boss Sir Denis Nayland Smith. Finally six is by Fu Manchu himself.
I don't want to give to much away about the story except it had major repercussions for the series. People die, friendships end and the entire group is splintered down to nothing.
Gulacy who could not keep up with the pace and left the book with MOKF #50. He actually announced he was leaving Comics all together. Thankfully that didn't happen and he just moved on to finite series. Canadian Jim Craig was a promising newcomer but he was even slower then Gulacy so his run collected here is riddled with fill ins, including Mike Zeck who would have a great run in the next volume.
Since Marvel has temporarily lincensed Fu Manchu, we do not know if this material will ever be reprinted again so I encourage you to pick these up now. Highest Recommendation.
Fans of the series long believed the comics would never be reprinted in any form due to rights of the Fu Manchu character being lost by Marvel after the series ended in the 1980's. However, last year Marvel made a short term license agreement with Sax Rohmer's estate enabling Marvel to reprint this series in the limited run Omnibus hard cover format. Likely due to the licensing fee Marvel had to pay, all 3 of the Omnibus editions have a significantly smaller page count then typical Marvel Omnibus editions (well under 700 pages) at the retail price point of $125US but all things considered, it's still a fair deal to finally get this landmark comic series reproduced in such great quality collections.
What is included in Volume 2 is Master Of Kung Fu comics #38 to #70 and MOKF Annual #1. The Moench/Gulacy team did their finest work up to issue #50 where artist Paul Gulacy left the series resulting in a number of issues with various artists filling in including Jim Craig and later Mike Zeck. Although the series quality clearly goes downhill after Gulacy's departure which happens about the halfway point in this collection, there are a number of good issues afterwords and artist Mike Zeck eventually becomes a solid fit for the series in the last few issues in this volume.
The art reproduction and "remastering" in this volume is generally very well done. As a comic collector dating back to the mid-60's, it's always a bit of a visual shock to pick up on of these Omnibus editions and see a 30-50+ year old comic reproduced on stark white glossy paper with perhaps overly vivid, saturated colors after decades of seeing those stories on fading cheap newsprint quality paper stock on the original comics. Gulacy often used zip-a-tone dot pattern tints to add shading detail to his art and sometimes that effect gets muddied and lost in this reproduction. In fact, there's several original b/w original art page stats included in the back of this book where the reader can directly compare the original detailed, razor sharp art to the colored pages in this volume. I am including a photo of one of my original comics alongside the same page in this book for comparison.
Overall, as a comics fan of Marvel's most interesting, creative period (60's - 80's) it's a fantastic treat to finally get Master Of Kung Fu collected in the Omnibus format. These 3 volumes are very limited print runs of only several thousand per volume and will undoubtedly sell out. It should also be noted all 3 volumes have alternate "Variant" cover slips which quickly sold out and already fetch very high prices on the reseller market. The cover shown on the Amazon page is the "regular" market cover slip. Otherwise, the contents of the variant and regular books are identical.