There has been a string of animal kidnappings, culminating in the disappearance of Ruth the Octopus from the zoo. This enters Shang-Chi's purview when a pair of ninjas interrupt an ice cream trip in broad daylight. They lead Shang into a trap, and he meets the man behind all of this.
For what it's worth, I like Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu quite a bit. He's a stereotypical Chinese character (his father his Fu Manchu) and pretty transparently a comic adaptation of Bruce Lee without having to pay for any life rights, but I do find him charming and compelling. His tenure on the Brubaker's Secret Avengers and Hickman's Avengers was pretty damn awesome.
This comic is funny at times. Chee the monkey is even pretty cute, and it does give Shang a bit more personality than other writers have granted him.
However, none of this makes up for how, to be coarse and blunt, absolutely stupid Master of Kung Fu #126 is.
With a name like "Shang-Chi's Day Off," I tried to keep my expectations in check, and I was decently certain that it would turn out like this. However, that still didn't quite prepare me for what the result was.
It starts with, as I said, Shang-Chi and Chee the monkey going to get ice cream. That's cute enough and not particularly offensive. It even humanizes Shang-Chi more than other comics.
However, before long you have Dr. Mal Prasis (Malpractice, and the comic makes sure that joke is drilled into your head) is trying to teach animals the art of Kung Fu and put Shang's brain in that damn octopus. The ninja henchmen are akin to the gargoyles from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. That is to say, they are unfunny and unbearable. Prasis is not threatening in the slightest, and I was just surprised the comic didn't go all the way into a parody of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You know, become that franchise that was originally a parody of Frank Miller's Daredevil.
Oh yeah, to explain that a bit further, there is a scene wherein a Kung Fu rat steals pizza. You know, like Splinter.
Dalibor Talajic's artwork is way better than this train wreck deserves. It's unique, detailed, and makes the too-few Kung Fu fight scenes look damn cool. Shang-Chi is made very expressive and looks cool. Erick Arciniega's color work gives the proceedings a tone and atmosphere that is, again, better than the plot deserves.
I want to tell you to support the first Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu comic to come out since Secret Wars. I want to say this was better than I expected. However, it really wasn't. It was pretty distinctly awful. The humor wasn't funny. The villains were insufferable. The art is the only saving grace, and it can't salvage the fairly moronic plot.