Monday, July 12, 2021


As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 21, 22, & 23.

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

Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Keith Giffen & Rico Rival

Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: Gil Kane & Rico Rival

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #21) The police attempt to arrest Hector, but when he feels the tiger amulets beginning to change him into White Tiger, he runs and transforms in an alleyway outside his family apartment. Meanwhile, Abe Brown is aboard his flight to Morocco when a group of men attack him for the suitfcase that was swapped for his own at the airport. Abe fights the men off, but only after they kill the pilots and all flight attendants. As Abe opens the case and finds a black costume inside, the plane begins plummeting toward Earth. In New York, Bob Diamond decides to go do a movie in Canada, while the White Tiger eludes the police only to find himself up against the Prowler. Prowler and the Tiger fight to a standstill and the police arrive, informing the Tiger that both he and Hector have been cleared in connection with the death of young Manny Lopez. The vigilantes part ways and the Tiger changes back into Hector, who has once again blacked out and has no memory of his name being cleared.

(DEADLY HANDS #22) While Hector's mother and sister wonder where he is, Hector finally realizes that he is the White Tiger when he sees a newspaper photo of the Tiger wearing his amulets. Meanwhile, Detective D'Angelo and his boss discuss the Tiger when Blackbyrd interrupts them, looking for information about the vigilante as well. Elsewhere, Abe manages to land the plummeting airliner in the Sahara desert, while in New York, Lotus and Lin Sun look for jobs. Meanwhile, the White Tiger approaches Hector's father, Nestor, and tells him that Hector is okay. But as soon as he leaves, the Tiger is attacked by the costumed Jack of Hearts.

(DEADLY HANDS #23) Jack of Hearts fights White Tiger, claiming that the Tiger is behind his father's recent murder. Meanwhile, Abe leaves the crashed plane in pursuit of one of the men who attacked him -- Mole, who has taken the mystery suitcase. Abe and Mole are found and taken by a group of bedouins, while aboard the plane, two of Mole's compatriots, Table-Top and Scratch, come around and head out after the others. In New York, Lin and Lotus see a news report about the plane crash. Knowing Abe was aboard, they call Bob, up in Canada shooting his movie, for help. Meanwhile, White Tiger convinces Jack of Hearts that he didn't kill anyone, just as Jack passes out due to their battle. Detective D'Angelo, Blackbyrd, and Hector's sister, Awilda, then show up.

Continuity Notes: The White Tiger scenes and the Sons of the Tiger scenes don't seem to be taking place concurrently at this juncture, when one considers Abe is at the airport in New York in issue 20, and his flight to Africa encompasses issues 21 and 22 -- while in issue 21, Bob accepts a role in a movie, and in issue 23 he has already traveled to Canada and begun filming his scenes! And in those very same issues, approximately two nights pass for the White Tiger as he fights the Prowler and Jack of Hearts. Overall, I think Bob is the issue, since it's strongly suggested that everything that's happened to White Tiger since he found the amulets has occurred over only a few days, and the timelines of Abe and Lin and Lotus probably more-or-less sync up with that -- but the idea that Bob can accept a part in a movie and start filming it a day later is absurd. Was the film in pre-production without a star, right up to the point where it was about to start shooting?

(I had similar questions when Spider-Man went to Hollywood in one of the Stan Lee/John Romita newspaper strip arcs, too. Clearly comic writers of the seventies had no grasp on how movie production works!)

The Prowler, a.k.a. Hobie Brown, a longtime but minor Spider-Man character, recaps his brief history in issue 21: he tried to become a super-villain, but the Web-Slinger talked him out of it. He married his sweetheart, Mindy, and got a job, also taking on a "Little Brother" -- Manny Lopez, the boy who was killed by a night watchman in the previous story. (And it is that watchman's statement, after he awakens from a coma, which clears Hector and his alter ego in this issue -- though weirdly, the watchman was unharmed and not in a coma when we last saw him in the prior installment.)

Detective D'Angelo, the officer on the White Tiger case, is the same cop who teamed up with Bob Diamond in his solo story back in DHoKF #13. He begins to piece together a connection between Bob and the White Tiger here when he recognizes the Tiger's amulets as matching the one Bob wore.

Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson show up in issue 22's opening scene, discussing the fact that the Daily Globe, chief competitor of the Daily Bugle, has published exclusive photos of the White Tiger fighting the Prowler. To rub this in Jameson's face, Globe publisher Barney Bushkin arrives and shows Jameson the full-color spread in his new issue.

Jack of Hearts, apparently the bane of many Marvel artists over the years due to his intricate costume, makes his very first appearance in issue 22. Jack's real name is, uh, Jack Hart, and he's the son of a master chemist whose creation of a clean liquid fuel resulted in his being murdered by a man named Maris. Jack witnessed the killing and gained his energy-based super-powers when he tried to elude the murderers in his father's lab. Jack believes the White Tiger is behind the killing because he overheard Maris mention reporting back to "the Tiger" in the South Bronx.

Issue 22's story also reveals that Blackbyrd is a former NYPD detective.

My Thoughts: It's kind of crazy that at some point, years down the line, someone at Marvel decided to make Abe Brown and Hobie Brown brothers -- but it hadn't happened yet, even as Hobie appears here in a White Tiger story that also features Abe involved in his own storyline on the other side of the world! It's a bizarre bit of coincidence that I just find fascinating. And I do wonder whether Glenn Herdling -- who I'm pretty sure is the writer responsible for the revelation -- thought of the connection when he first read this story (he was clearly a Sons fan, building several of his Prowler stories around Abe).

Also fascinating is the idea that Hector blacks out as the White Tiger, so that even when the Tiger finds out that his own name has been cleared in connection with a murder, Hector believes he's still wanted and goes on the run. Of course this doesn't last long, but even after Hector realizes he is the White Tiger, the two fight over the Tiger's headspace, with Hector seeming to control him during his "downtime", while the Tiger pushes Hector into a "safe place" and takes over for fights. I know this isn't unheard of in comics -- the Hulk is basically built on the idea, after all -- but it's also not something you see all that often.

As for the content of these actual stories -- I like them. I will admit that -- much as I loved the Sons as their own thing -- like I said last week, I feel that Mantlo is more comfortable telling the serialized adventures of a Spider-Man-esque hero, and these stories definitely have more of a classic (albeit gritter) Marvel flavor to them.

Next time, it's more of the same (and I mean that in a good way) as the sagas of the White Tiger and the still-disbanded Sons of the Tiger continue!


  1. I’d forgotten that Jack of Hearts debuted in these pages. He does admittedly have deadly hands but is clearly lacking in kung fu. Of course, Young Blam would have found the costumed, super-powered action here far preferable to all that’s come before, especially with the Prowler showing up; present-day me, despite being familiar with the trope from a lifetime of comics reading, found it ridiculous for JOH to narrate his origin flashback aloud while standing over White Tiger’s body, so it was oddly satisfying that he took so long WT actually had time to regain consciousness.

    // Also fascinating is the idea that Hector blacks out as the White Tiger //

    You’re right that it’s a pretty rare spin on double identities — although early issues of Ms. Marvel published shortly after this, reviewed on Teebore’s Patreon shortly before now, dealt with a virtually identical situation for even longer!

    I haven’t pulled out my Focus on George Pérez book in ages but I’m almost positive that’s where I first saw the splash from #21 with its impressive bird’s-eye shot of the city. While the Pérez/Abel team in #21 is good and Giffen/Rival in #22 is decent enough — with the looming figure of White Tiger superimposed over Daily Bugle on the splash page surprisingly reminiscent of Steve Ditko — the Kane/Rival team in #23 easily takes gold.

    1. Effin' Blogger refused to publish this many, many times. Sigh.

    2. I haven't patronized Teebore yet, and I forgot that Ms. Marvel (had to consciously stop myself from calling her "Captain"!) had this shtick too.

      That shot of the city you're talking about (I think, at least; the one with White Tiger over a nighttime New York that spells out "White Tiger" below him) also made the cut for the recently released (just last month, in fact) MARVEL ART OF GEORGE PEREZ. I bought the digital version, and it's right there on one of the early pages.

      I agree; Kane/Rival is easily the best of the "fill-in" artists around this time. It's generally pretty hard to beat him, in my opinion -- though my favorite Kane art tends to be when John Romita inked him on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Which may not be fair to Kane, since Romita re-drew the faces a lot of the time to look like his version of the characters... but I think that's why I like it! It's the Romita style, but with Kane's dynamism.

      Next week we have Ron Wilson dropping by for one chapter, plus the short-lived return of Perez for another, and then a week after that, Joe Staton closes things out for the final two DHoKF installments. I don't know that the magazine itself was floundering yet at this time, but the inconsistent artwork on this serial as it moves toward the finish line is notable.


    3. // the one with White Tiger over a nighttime New York that spells out "White Tiger" below him //


      Given everything Pérez mentioned to Mantlo as they walked down the street in #19, I’m not surprised there were so many fill-ins for him on this feature. When your workload includes Avengers, Fantastic Four, and a strip in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, which one is the lowest priority — for Marvel if not for you personally?

      Kane/Romita is really nice. Artists with a clear style of their own don’t always work as inkers over the pencils of other such artists, but the results can be spectacular. I often mention that Jerry Ordway, whose full art I enjoy a great deal, ranks high among my favorite inkers for both George Pérez and John Byrne. Nick Cardy, as definitive a Teen Titans artist in the previous century as Pérez, inked Gil Kane on a couple of stories that display the best of both their work.