Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #3 (August-September, 1975)

Richard Dragon found the location where Carolyn Woosan was being held, cut her loose and kicked butt. Carolyn was alone running through the streets of New York at night, the Swiss was in pursuit, and he managed to capture her in short order. A group of burly longshoremen/loggers/firefighters, most wearing sweaters and all wearing fedoras, happened to stumble out of a martial arts dojo or something just as Richard Dragon was trying to rush past them. Because these wildly anachronistic toughs were spoiling for a fight to validate their six months of training, Dragon was held up just long enough for the Swiss to speed off with the miss in a purple sedan. Dragon was at a loss to further help, and most of this paragraph was a rewritten version of the concluding one from my last synopsis. Welcome to 13rd of the issue.

Richard Dragon returned to his luxurious Japanese-styled home hidden off a filthy street, where Ben was tooling around on crutches after a gunshot wound broke his leg. A message from the Swiss had come for Dragon before he'd gotten back, requesting his presence at another obvious trap. Richard prepared himself mentally in solitude, retrieving a jade "dragon's claw" necklace given to him by O-Sensei for times when "something greater than human life is in peril!" I suppose cute Asian chicks you barely just met being kidnapped qualifies.

At the action set piece abandoned winery in upper New York state, the Swiss prepared for Dragon's arrival. He had gathered masters of "bo sticks," nunchakus, and the kusi gama (scythe & mace on a chain) to be filmed in mortal combat with the Dick Richard Dragon. A chained Carolyn Woosan would serve as damsel in distress. The Kung-Fu Master arrived to take on toughs armed with ancient weapons, I guess because they were observing handgun laws do the exact same thing as last time, but with added voyeuristic cameraman "ironically" falling on scythe. "You, Swiss! I hold you responsible! It was a game to you!"

"And I lost! But the ultimate triumph may still be mine!" A plunger was pressed, napalm exploded out of the wine barrels, and neither Richard nor the Swiss were injured while standing in the middle of it. The Swiss swished away with Carolyn Woosan, Richard Dragon used a bo staff to pole vault to freedom, and vows were made to actually save the girl for sure really next time.

"Claws of the Dragon!" was written by Denny O'Neil, based on his novel with Jim Berry under the collective pen name "Jim Dennis." Art was by Jack Kirby, with inks from D. Bruce Berry. No two issues of Kung-Fu Fighter have looked alike (and last issue didn't even resemble itself,) but nothing could prepare you for the whiplash of "King" Kirby, especially under that Dick Giordano cover. It's like cracking open an issue of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and seeing Rob Liefeld's name as the sole creative credit. You're totally like "what the what?" Plus, this is really bad Kirby-- very crude, "can you finish 18 pages over the weekend" material. Worse yet, the entire issue spins its wheels, not only ending up at the exact same place where it started, but doing so in a punch drunk stagger. If it only took four issues to adapt a novel, and this is one quarter of that adaptation: Worst. Novel. Ever.

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