Circles and Mirrors

The Life of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu
by Bala Menon


Shang Chi
This saga is the tale of Shang-Chi, whose name means "The rising and ascending of the spirit". While the character himself was created by Steve Englehart, who wrote several notable stories with him, it is with Doug Moench, his second writer, that Shang is most associated, and rightfully so. Moench was the writer who steered Shang through the vast majority of his career, and the one responsible for writing the massive story-arcs that most successfully chronicled Shang's growth, "the rising and ascending of his spirit".

This magnificent epic lasted well over a hundred issues, all of which are sadly out of print (and alas, no collections exist either). However, the story deserves another look, as one of the finest pieces of comic fiction existent.

Shang was raised as a child in Honan, the Chinese estate of his father, the immortal Fu Manchu. Skilled in all the martial arts, Shang was raised to venerate his father, who saw Shang as his right hand in the world outside Honan. However, following an early encounter with Sir Denis Nayland Smith (Fu Manchu's nemesis of old), Shang began to realize that his father was actually one of the most evil men alive, and that he could not, in all honour, continue to serve him. This is the tale of Shang's quest for his own identity, and his place in the world outside his father's home.


Mordillo and Pavane


Besides the thoughtful and detailed chronicle of Shang's growth, the saga is also rich entertainment, in the spirit of the original Bond movies. The action passes across the world, as our small band of spies combats the formidable power of some of the most dangerous, wildly imaginative men alive. Fu Manchu, the primary pillar of opposition, is far from the only foe they face. There's Carlton Velcro, a narcotics magnate with his own world-conquering plans; Pavane, the whip-wielding warrior woman; Mordillo, the ruler of an island filled with gorgeously insane toys; Sata, the assassin with a penchant for gladiatoral combat; and Kogar, the China Seas pirate, to mention just a few of the more indescribably colourful opponents in this book.

Shang also has the good fortune to be teamed up with some of the best agents since Modesty Blaise. Under Sir Denis Nayland Smith (British spymaster, and Fu Manchu's nemesis, who's been battling that immortal villain since the 1920's), he works with Leiko Wu (the love of his life, and an exceptionally competent agent in her own right), Clive Reston (the son of Britain's most famous spy, anxious to live up to his father's legend), Black