Secret Avengers #6 Review or Re-Enter the Dragon

Brubaker – Writer
Deodato – Artist
Beredo – Color Art
Publisher – Marvel

I am an unabashed fan of kung fu and ‘70s action films.  That love cross pollinates to a love for the characters of Iron Fist and Shang-Chi.  They are two of my favorite comic characters by a great margin.  Iron Fist is a character that seems to show up a lot in various other Marvel Comics, but Shang-Chi will go years between appearances…well, until recently.  The Master of Kung Fu has taken a large role in the recent Shadowland crossover and now finds his way into Secret Avengers.  

The truly special piece is that Ed Brubaker has obvious affinity for the character of Shang-Chi and doesn’t just write him as a veritable bore of a kung-fu monk that won’t hurt a fly.  Shang-Chi kicks all kinds of ass in an extended action sequence that opens up this five-part arc.  Bru, other than Garth Ennis, is probably the most talented writer in the industry.  He almost always tells stories with fabulous characterization and interesting plot developments.  Oddly, the first four issues of Secret Avengers were a run-of-the-mill storyline featuring all kinds of cosmic mumbo jumbo.  It was last issue with a story focused on a Nick Fury doppelganger that Brubaker’s excellence finally started to peek through. 

This issue paves the way for a storyline that’s not only going to feature Shang-Chi, but actually center on him.  Let’s take a step back and discuss just who the Master of Kung-Fu is.   Shang Chi was created in 1973 to capitalize on the martial arts craze that carried over into all aspects of pop culture.  He has many obvious similarities to, in my mind, the greatest kung fu film star, Bruce Lee. Shang Chi was actually created to capitalize on the Fu Manchu license that Marvel had recently acquired.  Shang Chi was created as the son of the evil Dr. Fu Manchu whose literary roots date back to the early 20th century as created by Sax Rohmer.  Shang Chi finds out his father is actually an evil man in his early adult years and sets on a path to commit patricide. 

The Fu Manchu license has long since lapsed back to the original rights holders, so he goes unnamed any time he shows up in the pages of Marvel’s comics.  This makes for an odd dynamic with the unnamed evil, but never really takes away from the comic reading experience.  Shang Chi has “killed” his father a number of times, and, guess what, Fu Manchu is resurrected once again this month.  This time the resurrection is courtesy the apparent ongoing villains of Secret Avengers, the Shadow Council.  It’s the first time that I can ever recall the mainstream Marvel Universe getting heavily involved in Shang Chi’s battle with He Who Must Not Be Named Due To Copyright

The pace moves quickly, as any good martial arts adventure must.  Brubaker introduces hero and villain of the piece as well as giving us a look inside Steve Rogers’ bedroom and his relationship with Sharon Carter.  Iron Fist supporting cast member the Prince of Orphans also plays a role which is foreshadowing Iron Fist’s soon to be involvement in the tale.  This could turn out to be one of the very best Marvel Universe adventures with the greatest martial arts characters from the ‘70s. 

Pulling everything together is the ever talented Mike Deodato.  Oddly enough I have a commission sketch of Shang Chi that Deodato did for me several years back at Pittsburg Comic Con.  He does an amazing job of putting the martial arts and more typical Marvel Universe elements to paper.  This really is a wonderful book to look at.  

Color me impressed with the opening chapter of “Eyes of the Dragon.”  Brubaker’s got some really cool stuff planned for this arc.  I’m actually beyond excited for issue #7.