By Jonathan Edwards
I spied a preview of Fu Jitsu in the closing pages of Dark Ark #1. Martial arts stories have never really grabbed me simply by virtue of them being about martial arts, especially outside of the film world. And knowing nothing else about this book, I only skimmed those sample pages at first. That is, until I saw the eponymous Fu Jitsu transitioning between several well established animal-style poses. That by itself wasn’t particularly interesting, nor were the classical elements associated with each stance. What did catch my eye was the inclusion of tarot suits and periodic table elements as well. And then to top it off, the next page (which also happened to be the last one included in the preview) has him refer to his “Sub-Atomic Kung Fu.” That promise of high concept shenanigans is what finally hooked me enough to check this one out, and the full first issue did not disappoint.
Fu Jitsu is a 120-year-old, Guam-born martial arts master that has just awoken from a three year stint in a sensory deprivation chamber. Funnily enough, that comprises some of the information I initially skipped over with the aforementioned preview, and things only get crazier when we’re introduced to the book’s antagonist, Robert Wadlow. He’s just recovered the Atomic Karana, a magical weapon of his creation that was forged in the “atomic fire of Nagasaki” by zombie Nazi occultists. And to top it all off, Wadlow has sent James Dean-- not someone who looks like James Dean, but the real James Dean-- to assassinate Fu. Do I even need to comment on any of that? If you can’t tell by now whether this is a book for you or not, I don’t think anything I could add will help.
What I really like about Fu Jitsu #1 is just how clearly it defines its world. Yeah, it’s batshit crazy, but the tone and ‘logic’ remain consistent. Fu has spent decades developing and honing the capabilities of his martial arts by adding real world science to its mysticism. Whereas, Wadlow went the other direction, creating what would’ve been a normal katana in certain circumstances thus granting it supernatural properties. They’re inverse, but at their cores they both relate to the idea of the natural and supernatural affecting each other. Additionally, it really does give the sense that these are people that’re familiar with one another and have interacted in the past.
Wes St. Claire’s art is all pretty good. Everything flows nicely, making it a pretty quick read. This is especially helpful in making Wadlow’s exposition that much more engaging and interesting. I will say that James Dean doesn’t really look that much like, well, James Dean. At least to me. But then again, it occurred to me that perhaps the point was to give a depiction of what Dean might’ve looked like in his late-30s or 40s. And in that regard, I think St. Claire’s design is successful. Plus, the joke regarding his appearance still landed well.
AfterShock has been getting my attention more and more recently, and books like Fu Jitsu are why. It’s a fun and entertaining read that doesn’t take itself too seriously while still providing a story with a bit of meat to dig into as the plot unfolds. Granted, this first issue is mostly setup, but if you’re in the market for something different then this one’s definitely worth checking out.
Fu Jitsu #1
Writer: Jai Nitz
Artist: Wesley St. Claire
Letterer: Ryane Hill
Publisher: AfterShock Comics