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- The David Carradine Intersection

Subj: Master of Kung Fu #19 by Englehart, Gulacy and Milgrom
Posted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 01:51:32 am EDT (Viewed 183 times)

MASTER OF KUNG FU #19 is an unusual issue. It stars both the Man-Thing and Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine's half-cast Shaolin wanderer from KUNG FU.) Caine is in the guise of Lu Sun; David Carradine with an Asian-looking mustache. Man-Thing is unusual because the MASTER OF KUNG FU's regular series had little to do with the Marvel Universe at large. The semi-PRISONERish MOKF #59 and 60 where the Prime Mover and Doctor Doom contend with each other and Fu Manchu with Shang Chi in the absence of his father is the other exception.

"Retreat" is written by the series co-creator Steve Englehart and drawn by my personal Steranko, Paul Gulacy. Inks by Al Milgrom are top grade.

Page one is a splash with the Man-Thing settled in a crouch, clenching tree branches and staring passively down at Shang-Chi in the swamp waters. Shang-Chi is wet, evidently at war with the swamp itself. Three pink herons decoratively fly by, one overlapping the title-lettering. It's a great page and I used to wonder if it was intended to be the cover. (Like MOKF #30, the second Razor-Fist issue, where the cover was used as the opening page.) It's not, as it does flow straight into the sequences on page two - Man-Thing making his awkward way toward Shang-Chi and the flashbacks that kick in in the fifth panel, where Shang Chi is pursued by two armed master assassins from his father's Si-Fan. His escape from the events of last issue is narrow. And he is still full of the drug pumped into him...

The flashback continues in television-edged panels. Shang-Chi is wet behind the ears in more ways than one. He is a brilliant infant pushed out into a world his indoctrination had to clash with instantly. It took him almost no time at all to turn on his Father, the Devil-Doctor of old, Fu Manchu. "Only miles inland, I abruptly plunged into a dense and steaming swampland. Here were many forms of danger new to my knowledge..." If I grew up distantly yet alongside any character in comics, it was this one.

Shang-Chi narrated most issues, his caption box the colour yellow. Yellow is the Bronze colour for the Vision and his speech.

Shang-Chi has discarded a slipper which his hunters find. Jekin is speculative but Dahar isn't there to be fooled. Shang-Chi hears their voices. He conceals himself behind a log, falling for the ventriloquism act. The next two pages show Gulacy's entertaining depiction of physical conflict. Limbs fly and snap. It's not kung fu but it is a poetic tribute. Shang-Chi drives the tree-log he has intercepted into both of them and they are hurled into the fetid drink.

There is a coiled snake that Shang-Chi prepares to strike - and we are back in the present. Shang-Chi is attempting to deal with the Heap-like Man-Thing. His struggle takes him through the creature feet first as he attempts to wrestle it.

Enter Lin Sun. I shall simply refer to him as Caine. Caine comes running. He frees Shang-Chi by pulling him through the bog-beast. The Son of Fu Manchu asks for help but his rescuer goes running to see if the Man-Thing has needs.... "He sees to the creature's welfare before mine. The creature seems unchanged by... perhaps unaware of... my delirious attack upon it. Good."

In his fever, Shang-Chi believes he has murdered two men - albeit two men trying to take his life. He wants rest, to drive the poison from his body. Caine says that perhaps he can aid him further. The Man-Thing is pulled after them as they make their trudging and slopping tracks.

Resting on a glade, Caine and Chi converse. The assassins aren't dead at all. Caine witnessed their emerging. Shang Chi asks "Lu Sun" "...How is it that a man... with many years of living... may desire the death of his son?" He goes into detail and there's a flashback panel of Shang Chi asking his Father about something another student had said. That he wants to rule the world and not benefit it.

The next page is a nicely told, from Gulacy's point of view, exchange between the two Kung Fu Stars. Caine doesn't speak to Chi about Fu Manchu. He speaks to him about himself. He concludes: "Men will always contend."

David Carradine said of his own involvement with the character: "I knew nothing about Eastern martial arts except what I'd seen in movies and read about from time to time. I couldn't believe that the network, knowing what they did about me, would hire me. It was like hiring a monkey wrench to throw itself into the machinery. My own mission in TV would be to teach the audience to turn the damn thing off and get a life." Carradine did indeed make the role his own. A more conventional actor may never have brought the part to life. It has depth and soul, largely David's.


In another part of the Everglades, a line of lorries comes through a road. Denis Nayland Smith, Black Jack Tarr and their forces spring a trap, rushing them, shooting at them. Fu Manchu was actually aboard one. Of course, he's gone as Houdini, even in plain sight, an escape from something like an invisible spook. Denis Nayland Smith is bitter that they have failed once more and Tarr says "Next time." Twice.

Snap back to Caine: "Violence breeds violence. No one is immune." Leaping to his feet, Caine receives two cross-bow shafts into his own left upper and lower leg. The boys are back! They hold their katanas and grin at Shang-Chi, who had not heard or sensed their return... They fight and its preposterous action, blades snaking and zig-zagging. Shang-Chi manages to survive their their onslaught - only to find himself trapped in quicksand. Jekin brings his sword down - and the Man-Thing plays interference. To everyone's surprise. Especially the assassins! (They know astonishment!) Caine's too? Who watches from under a tree. I don't know.

He shouts at them: "No! Do not touch it... for your bravado is founded in fear... and in my travels, I have heard it said... WHOSOEVER KNOWS FEAR... BURNS AT THE MAN-THING'S TOUCH!"

The next page is a two-page splash of the two essentially facing incineration! The whole double-page spread blows up!

Shang-Chi, comparing his own bombastic existence in the world to that of the Man-Thing, has food for thought. With Caine's leg injuries seen to, Shang-Chi exits like David Carradine on his own show, or at least the show he made his own.

Reading: I haven't read the Alan Davis remake yet, but I have finished the KILLRAVEN ESSENTIALS. I'm off to a flying start on DOOM PATROL SHOWCASE (the Bruno Premiani drawing in DOOM PATROL is splendid) and AMAZING SPIDERMAN ESSENTIALS vo1. 9. On it's way: E-MAN #1 and 2.
Listening: I came through the living room last week and found a Louis Armstrong edition of some new regular show - it also featured stunning Ella Fitzgerald footage. Bed was put off by an hour. On it's way: Jesse Santos (of Gold Key's TRAGG, DAGAR THE INVINCIBLE and DOCTOR SPEKTOR) and his career in lounge - a sampler.
Watching: All of BLACK BOOKS.
Flick: THE SHOOTIST. The kind of last film you might want to have. Peter Seller's last flick, for example, wasn't the wonderful BEING THERE...
RIP: David Carradine

I'll review a Doug Moench-written MASTER OF KUNG FU in the near future.