Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Special Marvel Edition #16 - Shang-Chi versus Midnight.

Special Marvel Edition #16, Shang-Chi vs Midnight

What's that sound you hear?

Good gravy, it's my mind, swishing through the air at you - sharp as a shuriken!

And, my mind being as sharp as a shuriken, I'll never forget the first time I encountered the word, "Ninja."

It was in the pages of Special Marvel Edition #16.

Or at least in the issue of Marvel UK's Avengers comic that reprinted it.

The tale involves Midnight, who as well as being a master of the martial arts is Shang-Chi's best and only friend.

At least he used to be. Now that Shang-Chi's turned against his father Fu Manchu, fate has decreed that they have to become deadly enemies.

So it is that, acting on Fu's orders, Midnight sets out to kill our plucky hero.

Midnight is not a happy character at the best of times. He has a bit of a Dr Doom complex going on, as he has to hide his face behind a mask, it having been hideously disfigured in childhood during an attack on his village by Fu Manchu's British enemies.

But, unlike Doom, he harbours no plans to conquer the world, being happy just to serve his fiendish master.

Cue page after page of stylish Jim Starlin action as the two martial artists battle it out in the streets of night-time New York, while philosophising at each other.

It's all good moody, beautiful stuff, even if there's maybe a bit too much an obsession with race in its captions and thought bubbles. And Midnight without his cape and hat is drawn purely in black silhouette, giving him the surreal appearance of a shadow brought to life.

Special Marvel Edition #16, Shang-Chi v Midnight
Of course, the tale's main value is that it proves to be a timely warning as to why you should never wear a cape whilst trying to murder someone on a building site.

Reader, it's a warning I plan to take to heart from now on.

The odd thing is that, reading this tale again for the first time since I was a youth, there's no mention at all of the word, "Ninja," in it.

It seems I was wrong and that I shall forget the first time I ever heard the word.

Because, whenever it was, it clearly wasn't here.

Special Marvel Edition #16, Midnight


Ant Master said...

I remember that one from the old B&W avengers run. Very odd seeing it in colour for the first time. I'd quite like to reread this run and hopefully it will come to Marvel Unlimited sometime soon.

Comicsfan said...

Gosh, I think the only time I've seen Midnight is as part of Kang's Legion of the Unliving, so it's nice to see his background summed up here. I'm with you on the cape--I could never see why a martial artist would handicap himself with a cape (or a hat). It would seem to make more sense dramatically to have Midnight set aside those items before he engages in battle (though you lose the style of the character as he swoops in on his foe, I guess).

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I loved those early Shang Chi strip -and vividly recall reading this in black and white in UK Avengers weekly issue 31 (April 1974 - arghh over 40 years ago) still have this amongst my handful of UK comics in my loft - i ALWAYS preferred colour US Master of Kung Fu strips that were in the UK Avengers B&W and the larger format as it showed off Gulacys art (in particular) better (to me at least)

B Smith said...

Nothing to do with the comic at hand, but I was just wondering if you've been watching any of the Peter Capaldi "Doctor Who" episodes?

Steve W. said...

B, I've seen all the current season of Dr Who. Apart from the first two episodes (which I thought were a bit of a derivative mess), I've enjoyed it.

I'm still not convinced Capaldi's right for the role. As much as he's a good actor, I'm finding his performances accomplished but mostly unengaging. He feels too much like a guest in his own show.

On the other hand, Jenna-Louise Coleman's compensating for it with easily her best string of performances since she joined the show.

Steve W. said...

Ant Master, sadly those old Shang-Chi stories are never likely to see the light of day again, thanks to Marvel no longer having the comicbook license to use Fu Manchu, and therefore not being able to reissue or reprint anything with him in them.

Dean Willetts said...

April 1974 -over 40 years ago! That's a bit terrifying,I still remember reading that b&w reprint like it was yesterday.I desperately wanted the American versions of those Starlin issues at the time, but couldn't' t find them anywhere.

Steve W. said...

I do feel Shang-Chi was one of the strips that was better to read in black and white, as it meant we could appreciate the artwork better without all that pesky misaligned colour getting in the way. On the other hand, Killraven reads better in colour than black and white. Why this should be, I have no idea.

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