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, Shang-Chi bears witness to Bride Of Nine Spiders abduct his fellow hero Iron Fist!
He tracks them down to an abandoned mansion where Shang-Chi battles Bride Of Nine Spiders for the lives of Iron Fist and the other Immortal Weapons. He senses a darker presence at work within her and, upon defeating her, this stands revealed – the massive Spider-God Ai Apaec who is working with The Queen!
The virus within Shang-Chi chooses this moment to enter another stage... and he sprouts four more arms to fight with!
The six-armed Shang-Chi stands against the Spider-God, Ai Apaec! His dreams, the prophecies within, have become reality! He directs Iron Fist to free the remaining Immortal Weapons whilst he takes on Ai Apaec! He unleashes “Storm Of One Thousand Fists (Modified)” but his size allows Ai Apaec to recover quickly! Shang-Chi pushes the advantage that they are in a confined space (the mansion) but the virus begins transforming him too quickly! With pain tearing through his body, he sprouts fangs and pincers! He urges himself to stay focussed and forces Ai Apaec towards a fire that has started! Ai Apaec crashes through the weakened floor but it has no affect! Suddenly, The Immortal Weapons enter the fight! Bride Of Nine Spiders hits “The Black Milk Of Hell” and “Silken Thread Strike, Iron Fist delivers “Dragon Punch”, Fat Cobra hits him with “Escape The 44th Cage”, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter strikes with “Courtesan’s Crimson Fan and Dog Brother #1 smashes with “Blood-Hunger’s Blade”! Shang-Chi manages to hit “The Purifying Sword” but his body transforms horrifically. Iron Fist sees this and tries to heal his friend using his Chi.
Within Shang-Chi, a battle rages! Spider vs. Man! His kung fu is too powerful for the forces of The Queen as he, The Master Of Kung Fu, serves no one!
He comes round to find that his spider-powers are gone and that Ai Apaec stands victorious! He demands that The Immortal Weapons recover and go to save the city: he will face Ai Apaec as a man! Shang-Chi plans to outpace him, to outthink him! He strikes the building struts and beams with “One With The Typhoon”, “Unerring Arrow Strike (Third Variation)” and a “Thunder Kick” whilst avoiding Ai Apaec’s attacks. He brings the building down upon the Spider-God, crushing him!
Shang-Chi speaks with Madame Web (Julia Carpenter) before the last stand of Spider-Island. He explains that the nightmares he experiences were Bride Of Nine Spiders reaching out to him. Shang-Chi feels his kung-fu energy redoubled. He enters the fray below, battling The Queen and knows himself, that no matter who he fights alongside, he is The Master Of Kung Fu!
Antony Johnston delivers what you expect at the end of every kung fu film and what we all expected here: the boss battle! Not that there is anything wrong with this plot device, it serves a grand purpose in many a film, series and game, and Johnston provides a perfect foil for Shang-Chi. There’s just this sense that a little more could have bee achieved through the fight sequence and that it does read as a little predictable. Even the fact that the protagonist sends the others away to face the big bad on his own is heroic as hell but completely illogical.
The art stays as logical and realistic as it can. Both artists deliver the sketchy, pacy lines from the previous issues whilst capturing this grace of movement that these gratuitously-entitled kung fu moves call for. If there’s any criticism of the art, it would be that Leandro Fernandez’s work requires a little more weight and depth in places.
I think, reading this series, you need to be acutely aware that this cannot be anything other than a kung fu comic and that, because of this very fact, it ultimately suffers the same fate as all other kung fu comics – lack of potential. As this mini closes, Shang-Chi has reverted back to his un-powered self and nothing much else has changed. Johnston tries very hard, in the scene with Shang-Chi’s internal struggle, to create a “rebirth” moment for the character, but there isn’t really the re-imagining and development that we see in Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger or Spider-Island: Amazing Spider-Girl.
It falls on the writer I’m afraid. Johnston takes us on an exciting ride but the characters and ourselves end up where we got on – the station marked “Traditional Tie-In”.
A satisfying conclusion to a strong mini-series. I don't think it will go anywhere from here, but it was fun while it lasted to get some kung fu back into our lives!