Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #2 (June-July, 1975)

Sparring in white karate tunics which tucked into black belts above their white briefs, Richard Dragon and Benjamin were clearly very comfortable with their bodies and sexuality. At a standstill, O-Sensei called, "Enough! ...Again, you have proven that I can teach you no more-- as you proved yourselves in Africa! For all things there is a time-- and now, though it burdens my heart, it is time for you to leave me!" The pair of masters said their goodbyes, gathered their things, and most importantly, changed into blazin' '70s threads. Can you dig it? Benjamin rocked a hoop earring like a pirate, while the Dragon sported a green silk neck scarf tied into an ascot, both busting out tight purple pants. Them boys were in that temple a long time.

On their way out, the pair were flagged down by Carolyn Woosan, who claimed to be the goddaughter of the O-Sensei. She had never come up in the seven years Benjamin had studied, but the boys regardless accepted her at her word and offered to escort her to the airport. Carolyn was set to study at New York University, and since Dragon was also hitting the Big Apple, he was set to protect her the whole way. Within a few hundred yards of the temple, martial arts thugs, awfully Caucasian for a bunch operating out of Kyoto, began falling out of the trees. The kung-fu fighters made short work of their lot, and on questioning one, learned they had been hired by a tall man in a white suit with rubber gloves to snatch the girl. Why? Nobody knew.

That night in San Francisco, Mister Shiruto returned to the dive hotel at which he was staying. Desk clerk Consuela was murdered via hypodermic needle by a man calling himself "The Swiss." In service to Shiruto's ex-employer, the Swiss was after laser beam frequencies the Asian man had developed but departed with. Shiruto never wanted his concepts to fall into evil hands for the purpose of war, and killed himself with a pair of scissors rather than squeal. "You fool! How dare you destroy yourself... and cheat me of my pleasure! Perhaps it does not matter! I saw him mail a letter-- to his niece Carolyn, no doubt!"

Benjamin was impressed with the walled villa in Lower Manhattan Richard's father had left him after dying in a plane crash. Too bad about the goons with mace that soon blinded Dragon, only to contend with Benjamin. Four against one aren't such bad odds for someone of Ben's skill, but one drew a gun as Richard's vision was clearing. Dragon leapt to save his friend, but Ben still took a shot to the leg, breaking it. Further, an attacker managed to escape with Carolyn. Richard Dragon allowed another several free shots, which he absorbed by focusing his chi, then let loose on the poor jerk. The hired tough was soon begging for mercy and offering up information. Ben suggested calling in the police, but Dragon insisted the only way to restore their honor was to save Woosan themselves, or rather himself, on account of Ben getting shot again.

The Swiss began torturing Carolyn Woosan about the letter her uncle had sent, about which she knew nothing, since she hadn't checked her mail in days. Richard Dragon found their location, kicked down a door, and took on toughs armed with ancient weapons, I guess because they were observing handgun laws. Dragon cut Carolyn loose and kicked butt, but at the end of the issue, things looked bad. Carolyn was alone running through the streets of New York at night, the Swiss was in pursuit, and Dragon was at a loss to further help.

"A Dragon Fights Alone!" was written by Denny O'Neil, based on his novel with Jim Berry under the collective pen name Jim Dennis. Art was by Jim Starlin, Alan Weiss and Al Milgrom. Hardly uncommon for the '70s, not only was the illustration style entirely different from that seen in the debut issue, but even from page to page in this one. Starlin probably laid out most if not all of the pages, but only a handful bear the look of his finished pencils. Alan Weiss appeared to most heavily influence the style of art throughout the book, but it seems likely embellisher Milgrom did most of the heavy lifting in finishing each page.

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