Monday, June 14, 2021


As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 12 - 14.

Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & The Tribe

Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Jack Abel

Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Dan Adkins

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #12) Abe Brown witnesses the murder of a woman while walking through Times Square, and soon finds himself teamed up with the man who had been hired to protect her, a private detective named Nathaniel "Blackbyrd" Byrd. Blackbyrd explains that the woman worked at a nuclear site in New Mexico, where she was contaminated. She turned whisteblower, so the company killed her to keep her quiet. Abe and Blackbyrd eventually avenge the girl, bringing the corrupt company's misdeeds to light.

(DEADLY HANDS #13) Bob Diamond, working on a movie in New York's Chinatown, comes aross a murdered man on-set -- the second death since production began. Bob and Lotus Shinchuko investigate the killings, antagonized at every turn by NYPD officer D'Angelo. Eventually, Bob find that the killer is Mr. Curtis, who wrote, directed, and starred in the original version of the movie from 1925, and who wants to stop production on this remake because it might bring to light the fact that the original film was created as a cover-up for Chinatown's illicit black market. In the end, Curtis dies trying to escape from Bob and D'Angelo.

(DEADLY HANDS #14) While meditating, Lun Sun finds himself in the astral plane, wandering alongside a samurai. Lin helps the samurai fight off a group of bandits, then follows him to a village which has been razed by the forces of Death. Death confronts Lin and the samurai, but Lin takes Death's life and then leaves the astral plane, returning to Earth with a physical gift from the samurai: his sword.

Continuity Notes: Issue 12 features the first appearance of Blackbyrd, who some readers might recall from my look at Roger Stern's Spider-Man run some years ago. Eventually, this Sons of the Tiger retrospective will come full circle with those Spidey stories.

Issue 13 reveals that Bob and Lotus are in a relationship, something Mantlo began to set up a couple issues earlier. Bob is also continuing his career as a movie star, now based in New York rather than California, though his current movie is apparently put on hold after the events of the story.

In issue 14, we learn that the samurai, Kanbei Kikuchiyo, is Lin Sun's ancestor -- so I suppose Lin isn't full-blooded Chinese, as previous chapters suggested.

My Thoughts: With the Silent Ones storyline at last concluded, Bill Mantlo next presents three separate solo tales of the Sons of the Tiger -- a fun exercise in any team-centric series, in my opinion. Much as the point of a super-group is to see them in action together, it's nice to separate them on occasion and see what they get up to when they're alone. So first up, we have an installment in "The Adventures of Abraham Brown". Mantlo leans into the "blaxploitation" angle, with Abe teaming up with a hard-boiled black detective to avenge the murder of a young black woman, and sticking it to the corporate white man to do so. The story is fine; corporate malfeasance generally always makes for a tried-and-true story hook. My only issue is with Mantlo's way over the top "blaccent" for Blackbyrd. It's a bit much (and seems to have been toned down by the time of his Spider-Man appearances mentioned above).

And while Abe's story is pretty run-of-the-mill, it's way better than Bob's installment. Murders on a movie set should be a fantastic hook for a detective yarn, but instead all we get is a few pages of Bob playing investigator before the villain, Mr. Curtis, reveals and then accidentally kills himself in the final pages. Add to this some grossly stereotyped Asian folks, and this one is best left forgotten.

Then there's Lin Sun's story, which is a lot of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo about walking through Heaven and teaching a samurai that there is more to life than killing. In case it's not evident, I've mentioned before that this sort of spiritual stuff just doesn't appeal to me. It feels like a waste of a story that could've been spent instead on Earth, with Lin involved in an actual fight against actual bad guys, rather than a weird inner struggle against the (admittedly cool-looking) human personificaton of Death.

So with these three solo stories out of the way, we will hopefully return to more straightforward Sons of Tiger adventures next week in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU issues 16 and 17 (they took #15 off)!


  1. Mantlo is slightly ahead of his time there with a story about someone being killed because of the dangers of nuclear radiation-that got a lot bigger after Three Mile Island happened-and tying together kung fu and blaxploitation movies is also a pretty damn clever touch. The less said about any attempt by white guys at Marvel writing African Americans speaking in their vernacular in the 1970s the better, though. Bless, they meant well, but not every character came off as well as Luke Cage, who at least got to do it at Doctor Doom.

    Mantlo seemed to enjoy mashing genres together on these, as the second story shows, and the last one actually does the same thing, high concept smashing together things like samurai movies with the all too hip meditation fads of the 70s. You got some wild combos in the 1970s, especially once people saw Star Wars and started smashing genres together willy-nilly trying to make the next huge thing. Crazy times.

    1. Jack, I've tried to reply to this comment twice in the past couple days, and Blogger ate the response both times. I'm officially throwing up my arms over it. Maybe someday I'll find the motivation to type out my reply for a third time!

      (Also, maybe someday I'll remember to type comments in another app so this doesn't happen...)

    2. Blogger is a hungry beast, and it feeds on comments it seems.


  2. I like the idea of short solo outings each focusing on one of the Sons but can’t help wondering how it went over with fans of the feature who, counting their absence from #15, had to wait four months between team stories.

    The dialect in Abe’s story really is atrocious.

    1. That's basically the same thought I've had about fill-ins on bimonthtly titles in 70s. I've often thought about the annoyance readers of X-MEN might have felt when the June '77 issue ended on a cliffhanger as the mutants headed into space after Eric the Red, then the August issue was a fill-in! Fans had to wait four months to find out what happened next!

      Indeed, Blam, I suspect that both you and Jack may have lived through this exact scenario, if you were reading X-MEN at that time.

    2. Oops! Missed the nested reply link.


  3. Was I reading X-Men then? After being handed #98 as a recommendation during an early visit to a comics shop in Philadelphia, I only picked up a few issues over the next couple of years despite it making an impression on me. I was just six-to-seven years old, still living in a small town in New Jersey limited to comics as stocked at newsagents, 5-&-10s, and drugstores, on a budget that consisted largely of the indulgence of parents and grandparents. Even with them supportive of my interest there were far more series than I could regularly follow. I did make a more concerted effort to keep up with X-Men upon being floored by #109; moving to the Philly suburbs later that year helped, as I got to pick up some back issues at shops and conventions. The fill-in #106 was actually one picked up off the spinner racks, but since my last X-Men before that was #102 it didn't frustrate me in terms of plot momentum. So my precocious literacy busts another perfectly reasonable hypothesis...

    1. Well, it was worth a try!

      I remember those early days, where the only comics you got were the ones your parents or grandparents picked up for you. But for me, that was stuff like early issues of Marvel's TRANSFORMERS, a few random issues of the Roger Stern/John Romita Jr. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and lots of Disney comics from Gladstone. And I was like five or six at that time. It was a few years later before I became a regular reader of anything.


  4. I think a bigger deal for me was just flat-out missing issues thanks to the vagaries of what spinner rack where carried how many copies of a given book and whether there were any left for me to find.

    During my 20s, when I found myself talking comics with older fans in print and online, I discovered that many had specific recollections of making the rounds of local drugstores, etc., based on which ones carried specific titles or publishers in certain numbers and the weeks of the month different series came out. I can’t recall having a game plan like that as a kid.

    I was aware early on that summer brought the annual JLA/JSA crossover. Most comics of any kind hyped the next issue even if there wasn’t a cliffhanger ending, but I suspect that my first lesson in the abject frustration of missing a chapter in a continuing story came with one of those. On the other hand, circling back to the question of fill-ins, there are some issues that I remember enjoying as a young fan hungry for comics history specifically because the Dreaded Deadline Doom required subbing in a reprint.