Manhattan is infected, thanks to The Jackal’s genetically modified bedbugs, and everyone has spider-powers! The Queen is revealed to be behind The Jackal’s plot but there are other forces at work as well…
Shang-Chi, master of Kung-Fu, is also spider-powered! After a series of strange nightmares and the Spider-Riot (in Amazing Spider-Man #667), he follows the Immortal Weapons, Iron Fist and Bride Of Nine Spiders, to a rooftop and sees Bride attack Iron Fist and cocoon him for her master! Shang-Chi steps in to save him but he is defeated and left unconscious!
Shang-Chi suffers another nightmare! He is the spider! He feels a compulsion, a dark nature as he stalks down a corridor to a mirror in which his true image of a spider is revealed! He awakes in his apartment to find his fellow Hero For Hire Silver Sable overlooking him. Shang-Chi managed to tell her about the nightmares before collapsing for 12 hours so she has had some time to research the Bride Of Nine Spiders. Shang-Chi recalls his nightmares and remembers a road sign that narrows her location down. Silver Sable, having tracked Iron Fist and Bride Of Nine Spiders after they left the Spider-Riot, found Shang-Chi injured and brought him home.
Recalling Madame Web/Julia Carpenter’s prophecy, Shang-Chi knows that the women (one in dark and one in light) are Bride Of Nine Spiders and Silver Sable. The rest of the prophecy (a man who is not a man and a spider who is not a spider) remains a worrying mystery. He breaks into the address Silver Sable found for him and finds a dilapidated mansion house. Several traps are sprung upon him as he explores, determined to fight against the illusions and nightmares Bride Of Nine Spiders is attacking him with! He hears her laughter but, finding her frightened image in a mirror, also realises that she is scared! He finally comes across her, taunting him, and he knows he has finish the fight quickly! Unleashing “Unerring Arrow” does not do it as she counters with “Mountain Does Not Flee” and “Taming The Wayward Goat”! He slices through her webbing with “Cut The Falling Hair” and the Kung-Fu dance continues! She hits him with the hellish “The End Of All Things To Come”, hurling a cloud of spiders at him! He tries “Hungry Crane Swoop” and “The Dragon Defiant”, planting her through the floor, but realises he can’t do this alone! He tracks down Iron Fist and frees him from the cocoon Bride Of Nine Spiders trapped him in! Although sluggish, they work together battering her with “Brooklyn Slug”, “Tender The Kidney” and “Squabbling Monkeys Fly”! Shang-Chi wonders if the sickness he feels within the house has control over her. The fight ends when they land their ultimate moves: “The Iron Fist” and “The Perfection Of Rudiments”! Iron Fist sets about healing her from her mental sickness but Shang-Chi suddenly writhes in pain, every muscle aflame! Iron Fist cannot help him as the being behind Bride Of Nine Spiders’ actions emerges! With the legs of a giant spider and the body of a God, Al Apaec faces Iron Fist! He explains that he is doing the biding of The Queen, helping to spread the plague of spiders across Manhattan. The Queen gave him control over Bride Of Nine Spiders and she then brought him Immortal Weapons to feast upon! Iron Fist has no chance against him alone… Enter Shang-Chi! He has sprouted four more arms and stands ready to fight with “The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu”!
The focus upon Bride Of Nine Spiders and the reveal of Ai Apaec as the major villain are mainly positive elements of this issue. Antony Johnson gives us another cracking Kung-Fu display which comes after this mysterious build-up as Shang-Chi explores the house. At times this is awkward, and the readers are not sure if Bride is good or bad or how long this section is going to go on for, but the positive comes thick and fast as Johnson ascends to multiple awesome Kung-Fu moves again, Iron Fist’s return and Ai Apaec! I am stoked to see this character’s return as it fans the burning flames of continuity and spiders! The prospect of this confrontation next issue is mouth-watering to say the least. Johnson sends shivers up your spine even more with that beautifully timed final page and the “Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu” announcement!
The identity of this series is now firm. It ties in to both the transformations in Amazing Spider-Man, the villain from Osborn and characters from Immortal Iron Fist but, most importantly, remains a kung-fu comic. Compared with the other tie-in minis (Cloak & Dagger and Amazing Spider-Girl), Deadly Hands has grown stronger on the second issue and strengthened its stake in the market. The others have wavered from their original #1 concept and dipped in quality because of that. Antony Johnson writes very enjoyable kung-fu and does it well.
The speedy, sketchy art remains a perfect match for the spectacle needed in the fight sequences. Sebastian Fuimara’s opening seven pages are good as he strengthens the lines for the talking heads and the rest matches this quality, never letting the story, action or emotion down. A credit to both Fuimara and Leandro Ferandez as I didn’t notice there were two artists until I read the closing credits. On closer inspection, Fernandez doesn’t have the finesse for storytelling or brilliant choreography that Fuimara has but there’s no visual clash and good continuity. A good editorial choice here Alejandro Arbona!
Once again, the central character poses a problem. This issue remains fascinating because Shang-Chi has powers, now has six arms and is accompanied by Iron Fist to battle Bride and Ai Apaec. Unfortunate for Johnson to give the central character the same thoughts I’ve got – “…perhaps after all I cannot do this alone.”
A great returning villain, a clasic fight sequence and the tone of the book remains spot on.