by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The general thesis of Fu Jitsu appears to be: “comics are weird, but resonate with us anyway.” Or perhaps the resonance is because of the weirdness. Writer Jai Nitz and artist Wesley St. Claire never really imply causation in one direction or another, but with issue 3 of Fu Jitsu, they do make a strong case for the last correlation between the two qualities throughout comic book history. Yup: issue one was about the diegetic past, issue two was about a diegetic present, and issue three is about the meta-past.
Which means colorist Maria Santaolalla leans in to the look of four color printing, emulating the technique with millions of little dots suggesting colors beyond cyan, magenta and yellow. It is immediately evocative of an earlier time in comics, even as St. Claire’s detailed inking betrays the issues modernity. It’s a neat little trick that the rest of the series has done with in-universe stuff — make it look sorta like the past, but just different enough to make the reader ask “what the hell?” And that’s Fu’s backstory in a nutshell: just close enough to the backstories of characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America with a twist that upsets the whole thing. As Shaolin Lad, Fu is more like Bucky to Golden Arm’s Captain America, with the funky wrinkle that he skipped World War II. It’s a dizzying bit of mythology, played out against Golden Arm wailing on their enemy.
This is the height of Fu Jitsu insanity: Johnny Unitas in a superhero costume, beating up a villain while the ageless Shaolin Lad explains how he explored the cosmos for 17 years before returning to earth and being mistaken for the UFO recovered in Roswell. I love that Nitz puts this kind of narrative madness over a relatively simple beat-em up. The set up may be complicated as hell, but the end goal is always the same: some fun, satisfying punches.
Of course, things get a little too intense when Robert Wadlow comes back and runs a sword through the young Shaolin Lad. I’m not quite sure what to make of Fu Jitsu himself traveling into the same meta-history to pull Wadlow back to the present. The present, by the way, is colored normally, but retains the pulpy, excitable narration banners of the imagined Silver Age version of this comic.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?