(Warning: this review contains spoilers for The Fearsome Doctor Fang #1)
As well as The 7 Deadly Sins #1, by TKO Studios, another one of their debut titles that caught my eye was The Fearsome Doctor Fang #1, which is one part Raider of the Lost Ark and another part turn-of-the-century pulp crime thriller set in San Francisco in 1904. We first meet police officers and brothers, Nayland and Patrick Kelly as they try to corner the mysterious and dreaded underworld figure of Doctor Fang, with disastrous consequences for Patrick.
Fast forward two year later and we catch up with Nayland Kelly, a stereotypical hard-drinking, chain-smoking, tough two-fisted fighting Irish street cop who comes into contact with the eponymous Doctor Fang once again. But, not before we meet with further central figures in this globetrotting crime caper in the shape of light-fingered Alice Lecroix, on a mission to steal a valuable artefact, Kublai Khan’s puzzle box, currently on show at the museum. A piece of history said to be the key to finding Kublai Khan’s famous fortune.
Certainly a prized possession and the object that kicks off this adventure in earnest when Lecroix succeeds in stealing the item. But, not without Nayland Kelly noticing and taking up pursuit. A pursuit that sees his path crossing with Fang’s who is revealed to be something less than the villain he has been painted to be. That and a startling revelation for Nayland at the end of the book and you’ll be left guessing who’s on the side of the angels and who isn’t. It certainly all makes for an entertaining, pulse-pounding adventure worthy of the genre it emulates and plays with. I love stories like this, which promise big action, exotic travel and originality, too.
This is certainly what I would term a ‘post modern pulp fiction’. There’s already the interesting portrayal of Doctor Fang, whose DNA can clearly be traced to Chinese racial stereotype Fu Manchu, but who may play a less stereotypical role in this saga moving forward, certainly with Tze Chun as one of the writers, alongside Mike Weiss. Clearly, as a reader, we are asked to consider such representations of the past and reframe them with our more contemporary belief and values. Once again, as in is the other offering from TKO Studios with The 7 Deadly Sins, it would seem Chun and Weiss are taking up a genre not renowned for its healthy portrayal of women and minority groups and remixing it with 21st century sensibilities.
We have a central criminal who seems more like a scientific genius of the age, as well as a femme fatale who refuses to fit in with the definition of such a character, and she certainly doesn’t need saving anytime soon. Throw into this mix the gritty art of Dan McDaid, who can draw a mean action sequence or two, as he does in this debut issue, the twilight-lit, warm glowing world of San Francisco as colored by Daniella Miwa, and you have another outstanding debut from this new start up comic book publisher. Nayland Kelly is built like the proverbial brick outhouse, while Doctor Fang is a glorious fusion of technology and terrifying armour, with Lecroix being much, much more than the damsel in distress. If anything, she’s the damsel doing the distressing!
The Fearsome Doctor Fang #1 is available now for free from TKO Studios webstore, where you can also pick up the rest of this series in a number of purchasing options.