Essential Master Of Kung Fu
Master of Kung Fu #108 (Jan 82)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #10 in Essential #5.
Reason for Placement - We get some character development in this done-in-one tale.

The story this time (and it’s another keeper) starts off with us experiencing Shangs rich inner life as he stares at an iguana in a tank and imagines it, Godzilla sized, attacking him. His ruminations are broken up by Dark Angel as she enters the room.
It’s a particular way to start off a comic.

Shang Chis in her room as her bodyguard and Leiko Wu stops by to take them to a meeting with Sir Denis, and Leiko seems to have an uncharacteristically catty attitude towards Dark Angel.

At the meeting Dark Angel’s real name is never given, but she is given the name Mia Lessing as her new identity. Clive (who is currently dating Melissa Greville) really starts macking on Dark Angel and cock blocks Blackjack Tarr onto the mission to get closer to her.

These little bits really make this story come alive.

The main guts of the story concerns Dark Angle being a soviet defector who is willing to give MI-6 (and Sir Denis’s ‘Freelance Restorations’) intel on double agents, including a mole who is passing missile plans over to enemy agents. So our guys go undercover to bust up the spy ring at a cathedral but are found out. We get kidnapping, nuns with knives, a stained glass shoot out, and an attempted drowning in holy water. We also get a double decker bus hijacked, possible betrayal, a gun fight in a pet store (which means Gene Day gets a chance to do his sweet ‘watch the action through a fish tank’ trick again) and by the end of the issue we wind up with a very satisfying read.

Yep, once again there’s a solid balance of supporting cast detail & story telling.
And it’s pretty to look at too.

Some Shang Chi fan fiction!

Master of Kung Fu #107 (Dec 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
I - Armando Gil
C - Gene Day

Story #9 in Essential #5.
Reason for Placement - nothin’ fancy here sir.

We start this issue with Shang Chi taking his idea of a vacation - alone on board a ship locked in his room, meditating & fasting. Ten days in & concerned about losing his ‘art’, he hallucinates but in the end is not satisfied with the results. Arriving on the 11th day at his destination - Naples - Shang plans on breaking his fast, but is interrupted in his attempt at buying food by a message of a mission from Smith, so hunger unabated he rushes onto a train to Rome. Unable to buy food on the train, after disembarking a hurried Shang Chi passes many restaurants on his way to his mission, empty stomach taunting him all the way. Arriving at the rendezvous point, Shang is attacked and while able to defend himself, he is not happy with his composure.

"I fasted to regain my art, instead my hunger deprived it."

Finally in touch with his contact, he discovers his mission is to help ‘Dark Angel’ to defect. Shang is led to an old man on a boat - Dark Angel? - who is fearing for his life. Needing to pick up his daughter, the old man leads Shang to the streets, where they are ambushed, and the old man is killed, knifed to a wall.

Sata, the assassin, appears and after mocking Shang Chi leads him on a chase though the Coliseum, surrounded on all sides by statues of gladiators.
Sata is a former Fu Manchu Si-Fan and gives Shang Chi a mighty battle. Slowed by his unbroken fast Shang is incapable of performing at his peak, and beginning to hallucinate during the fight this throws him farther off his game.

Things look bad, when Shang has a realization - “I am Shang Chi -I am me - a man whose strength lies in overcoming weakness… in regaining an art long thought lost.”

Pushing himself, Shang defeats Sata, who is killed when he falls on his own trident.

The issue ends with a conflicted Shang Chi standing in front of a butcher shop window. Believing he both won & lost - defeating the assassin, yer thinking Dark Angel dead - he muses “The profound hunger for emotion. I have earned the right to succumb to it.”
Smashing out the shop window, Shangs reverie is interrupted is by a woman standing behind him.
She is Dark Angel, and it was her father who betrayed her to the assassin, and got killed for his betrayal.
The final panel shows dawn breaking as Shang Chi & Dark Angel walk off to find some breakfast.

This issue is a favorite of mine - Shangs self doubts mixed with his inability to actually control his own destiny makes for a heady comic. The conflicts the character is enmeshed in are really shown well here, while still providing an entertaining action/spy story. Gene Days art is sheer perfection, and Gils inks give a solid polish.
This is also an excellent done in one story, yet it still references previous issues nicely, plus the introduction of the Dark Angel character helps lay the foundation for future stories.


Hey, there’s a foreign reprint of some of Gene Days MOFK, look here -

And here’s a link to a drunk review of said comic -

Master of Kung Fu #106 (Nov 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
I - Armando Gil
C - Gene Day

Story #8 in Essential #5.
Reason for Placement - part 2 of 2

A captured left bladed Razorfist is pumped for information by Pavane while Shang & Leiko look on. Finding out the location of Velcros hidden base, Shang and Leiko head off to confront the cybernetic survivor of a previous run in with Shang Chi, when Velcro got blown up real good.

At Velcros hideout island, where he has a cadre of boozing assassins at the ready, Velcro tells his “drunken slayers” to prepare for Shang Chi - “You are hereby activated to alert status! You will adjust to a rations only diet! There will be no more drinking!”

With Nayland Smiths assistance Shang & Leiko get stocked up on Samurai armor and a flight. Parachuting in, they start kicking ass all up and the down the place.

We get an epic armored battle, a cravenly frightened Velcro, doors kicked in & once again in a stunning show of cowardice Velcro attempts to kill Shang yet shoots one of his own henchmen dead.
This does not make Shang very happy, and it’s no surprise when Velcro goes down.
By the end of the comic Blackjack Tarr & Clive Reston arrive to help mop up, and Shang & Leiko get jiggy with each other.

Gene Day does his usually beautiful job here, with a good looking assist from inker Armando Gil.


Master of Kung Fu #105 (Oct 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #7 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - Part 1 of 2

We open in Hong Kong where at a waterfront bar Razorfist overhears a discussion of last issues events. Razorfist wants to find The Cat but no one’s talking, so they start bleeding.

This is a wonderful 2 part story, where once again Moench revisits some old characters - this time it’s 2 Razorfists, Velcro & Pavane. It feels like Moench is thinking “Ok, Gulacey had a shot at these characters, lets give Day a go.” and I like that.

Back to the story - Razorfist hunts & Shang Chi (in England) hears a flashback to the 1st Velcro tale, then Sir Denis pays a visit to MI-6 where he discovers Fah Lo Suee is working behind the scenes there. Sir Denis gets intel which he gives to Shang & Leiko so they can warn Pavane.

We get panther attacks, a whip fight, and Razorfist getting beat up real good.

We also get more wonderful Gene Day art - his use of shadows is especially nice.

Link -

Master of Kung Fu #104 (Sept 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #6 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - Part 2

The story continues from last issue and we’re getting all sorts of fighty and stuff.
We get the return of The Cat (Shen Kuei), undercover Leiko confusing Shang Chi and awesome Gene Day art.

The Nazi treasure is a rare metal compound that would allow lasers to work in an oxygen environment better, and Shang Chi thinks the Cat is working for Chinese government while The Cat thinks Shang is working for the British, yet both of them just want to destroy this new weapon so no one can use it. Of course it takes a while for both men to understand this so we get 2 really well choreographed fights in this here comic, along with some nice drama involving the ladies.
And science! Moench gives us some 1981 laser info to add to the realism - Science!

As usual I am really bad at explaining why I love this comic - it’s sure a lot easier taking a dump on a dog of a comic than holding up a gem and polishing it the right way to share it’s beauty - but this 1st two part story by the Moench/Day team is really well done.

The only criticism I have is I do not think the cover is really well composed. While well drawn, comic covers usually need to be better focused than the set of stairs, small figures and statues Gene Day provided. By the next issue Day nails the cover, so this is a small thing.

For a link this time lets say yay Doug Moench -

Splash -

Lets show a few pages from this bad boy, here’s page 5 -

And page 18 -

Master of Kung Fu #103 (Aug 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #5 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - Next issue

Ahh, this is more like it - this is the real start to the Moench/Day era, and what a wondrous start it is!

Out of the hospital Leiko feels the need to prove herself so tipped by MI-6 Blackjack gives her a lead and off to Hong Kong she goes.
And close behind is Shang Chi, wanting to assist her.
But instead he finds old friends & foes, possible betrayal and sunk since WWII there’s precious Nazi treasure.

This is some well done shit here.

Here’s a nice indepth review of this issue -

Of course Gene Day knocks the artwork out of the park here - it’s a very beautiful comic, and it’s easy to understand - i dunno what Jim Shooter was smoking back in 1981, the art is flawless.

Splash page -

And here’s page 2 & 3 -

Master of Kung Fu #102 (July 81)

W - Peter B. Gillis / Doug Moench
A - Gene Day / Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #4 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - it’s the next issue.

This fill-in is only the 2nd non Moench MOKF (besides #64) in an otherwise unbroken 100 issue run. It’s alright, but there’s a few things that are off and stick out like a compound fracture to me. For example, Shang Chi seems to have no problem taking a bodyguard job for money, and he also get all sorts of lovey-dovey with another gal, even though just the last issue he professed his unquestioning love for Leiko Wu.
Ah, comic book continuity issues, how you are the pea to my princess.

So we’re told Shang goes to France for a rest.
We’re told some rich people are holding a party in Shang Chi’s honor, and Shang is chided for being too quiet. He meets a blonde dancer at the party and gets a boner for her.
Later he meets an old woman who owns a refinery with an out dated computer system (what kinda computer did they have in 1981?) that is being offered to be fixed by a “cartel determined to control the worlds economy by any means available.”
The old woman refused, and in the months following they had computer problems. So she shut down the refinery instead of doing anything.
And this paranoid old woman now wants to hire Shang to sit by her bedroom door.
and he agrees.

As things progress the old woman is struck by blindness, Shang gets more humpy towards the blonde dancer, and then the old woman is attacked by robotic flying scorpions & a poisonous house fly. Blamed for the old womans injuries, Shang goes for a walk but is attacked by a masked man (and his gang) jealous that Shang and blonde dancer were swapping spit. But then some other dude shows up with a gun & gets knifed. Then the old woman gets a forced heart attack by her doctor, and it winds up the blonde dancer is actually behind things and has some weird green stone that shoots out super power laser blasts -
She working for the evil cartel and by the end of the comic she temporarily paralyzes Shang Chi and escapes. She expresses her love for Shang Chi and leaves.
The End.

Not my favorite MOKF comic.
I wonder when it was completed?
When this came out Marvel had a policy of having “inventory issues” ready to go to print in case a comic hit a deadline problem, and sometimes just to give the regular creators a breather they would publish one. That looks to be the case here.
Some inventory issues would be sat on for years before being published.
The reason I bring this up is I notice on page 2 panel 2 in #102 there’s a very similar drawing to a panel in MOKF #100 (on page 4 panel 4) of a fish in the foreground with the characters in the background, distorted by the refraction of the water.
It makes me think Gene Day did issue #102 before #100, and maybe he though the fill-in story her drew that was eventually published on #102 wasn’t going to be used at all?

Here’s the panel from MOKF #100 -

And from #102 -

Not a direct copy, but obviously it’s the same idea.
I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, I just find it curious.

The main story (drawn by Day) is 17 pages long, and the final 5 pages are extras scripted by Moench & drawn by Zeck.
Here’s a page from the end of the issue showing Shang Chis rouge’s gallery -

And here’s the splash -

Master of Kung Fu #101 (Jun 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #3 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - story continues from last issue

Please Note - here’s a big old SPOILER WARNING for you, since I give away the ending of this comic.
Just skip to the final paragraph if yer interested in reading this excellent comic yerself.

In a sequel to MOKF 76, we begin at a hospital where Leiko is recovering from last issues Ripper attack. Leaving her room Shang Chi is suspicious of a couple of masked doctors, and his worries are born out when he stops them from trying to kill an old man down the hall from Leiko. It winds up being the old gent who betrayed Shang to Zaran, who has a bounty on his head from rival drug dealers. The old man begs Shang for assistance, but very coldly Shang Chi refuses.
As Shang leaves the hospital the old mans pleas keep resonating in him, and at the last second he changes his mind and heads to the waterfront bar where he first met the old man. At the bar we find Yakuza, prostitution, tattooed swordsmen & murder plots. As assassins race to the hospital to finish the contract, Shang gives chase and picks them off one at time, catching the final killer in the hallway outside the old mans room. A wounded Leiko drags herself to his side, but the old man is sure the killers will reach him so he unplugs his life support, killing himself.
As Shang Chi, exhausted, makes it to the old mans room Leiko covers up the old mans suicide to save Shang Chis feelings, saying his death was of natural causes.

This is Mike Zecks final MOKF, and he goes out on a high note - drama, pathos, very good action scenes - sorry to be so repetitive, but this is a wonderful comic.

here’s a link to a hodge podge of stuff -

Another overview link -

Master of Kung Fu #100 (May 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day / Mike Zeck
I - Day / Zeck / McLeod / Beatty
C - Mike Zeck

Story #2 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - it’s the next issue.

It’s the 100th issue, so we get a double sized special.
of course, there’d actually only been 83 issues of MOKF (or 85 if you want to count the 1st 2 Shang Chi’s in ‘Marvel Special Edition’s) but whatever, lets roll with with it. Because the issue is divided into 3 separate yet connected stories, and Gene Day got to draw the 1st one, so yeah, that’s a good reason to party.

The over arching story line concerns a plot Fu Manchu began in the 1930s to use Jack The Rippers psyche as a morality template for his Sia-Fan assassins to increase their ruthlessness.

In the 1st story we see Sir Denis (along with Petrie & Leeks) given information & assistance by Fa Lo Suee and is able to disrupt a plot of Fu Manchus in Cairo.
The 2nd story involves a youthful Shang Chi overhearing his sister Fa Lo Suee at odds with their father & the mystery of her disappearing lover.
The 3rd is in the ‘present’ and involves a killer, Lieko Wu and once again, his sister.

I bought this off the racks when it first came out and I remember my initial reaction was disappointment - the 1st third of the book is drawn by Gene Day and his artwork is very different from Zecks. The story’s set in the 30’s and has a pulpy/old timey feel to it and it took me a couple of reads to figure out what was going on.
My reaction was similar to the first time I read a Miller Daredevil - both artists make ample use of shadows and deep blacks.
Gene Day film noir / more adult art style wasn’t something I was use to.
Looking at the Day pages today I am stuck by how beautiful they are - his attention to detail, inventive panel layouts, fully realized backgrounds…. a touch of photo realism here, an intriguing foreground item there - it’s very striking stuff.
I really do not feel like i have the critical chops to really break it down here, but man I can stare at Gene Days art for days.
Long and short of it while at first I was somewhat turned off by Days art, something kept pulling me back to check it out again.
I couldn’t ignore it.

It’s funny - as a kid my first reaction was i preferred the 2 thirds of the book drawn by Zeck - it’s was easier to follow.
But as an adult re-reading this, getting towards the end of the book I found myself hurrying to finish so I could go back and examine the Day pages again.
I am in no means saying Zeck is a bad artist - he’s a wonderful artist.
But Gene Day was a great artist.

While the story line isn’t the most inventive - how many Jack The Ripper inspired outings had there been by this point? - this is still a very solid comic and it’s just wrong this series hasn’t been reprinted yet.

Links -

And hey, since this is an anniversary issue lets take a look back at the first Shang Chi comic -

Master of Kung Fu #99 (Apr 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #1 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - it’s a good place to start

Rufus “Super Midnight” Carter returns, along with some spy stuff and solid kicks, baby.

While Shang Chi achieves a certain level of peace with his world, Lieko feels a bit cut off from him. She hears some disturbing news and heads to London (and next issue) to investigate.

Meanwhile, Rufus Carter has a run in with a former CIA associate and has a disagreement on how to deal with a sabotage plot, while leads to Rufus being shot at, and his escaping and roping Shang Chi into helping.

We get boarding a boat via grappling hook, betrayal, a “hey, weasel” insult thrown and a BAOUM explosion.

Good times, people, good times.

Links -