Shang-Chi is a series that reintroduces readers to one of Marvel’s classic characters while also thrusting him into a narrative that spans centuries. The first issue was good at establishing Shang-Chi as a likable character and setting up the familial drama he’s about to embark on. With the second issue out this week, Shang-Chi is off to meet with a sister he thought was long dead, but considering how she doesn’t seem like a good guy, this could end badly.
The second issue in this five-part series opens on Shang-Chi’s life as a boy 15 years ago. He’s playing with his sister and they stumble upon something they shouldn’t have. Soon, they’re being reprimanded by their father and they are broken up. It’s a key scene that plays well later, as Shang-Chi connects with his sister as if not a day has gone by. Gene Luen Yang is doing a good job establishing the kind heart of Shang-Chi and the hope he has for their relationship.
This issue also digs into the espionage angle for the character and sees him jumping from a pane and doing some quick work of guards in the snow. You only have to read my 3 Reasons why ‘Master of Kung Fu’ would be Marvel Studios 007 on steriods article to see why this is the perfect character for Marvel Studios to turn into the next James Bond, and you get a taste of that here. The action continues to look excellent and we’re reminded it’s not so much the fight moves Shang-Chi has that make him great, but his speed.
This issue takes a turn that ups the ante in an interesting way. In the last third, prepare for some supernatural weirdness. It’s an unexpected moment, though it does connect to the opening flashback and it does well to push this narrative beyond a standard fight-comic about family and into a science fiction mystery.
The action and mystery are interesting, but the family story is what makes this comic more interesting. Yang and Tan make you believe Shang-Chi truly loves his sister. Losing her is like losing a part of himself. You see it in the sorrow, but also in the joy they have when they meet again later. This is a story about siblings who have an abusive father, setting them both on different paths. How they manage with conflicting desires to make peace with the past will determine how the story plays out.
The art is split up well with Philip Tan on flashbacks and Dike Ruan on the scenes taking place in the present. Sebastian Cheng makes the supernatural elements come alive, especially a purpose star-blood (don’t ask) that leaks from Shang-Chi. Ruan does a good job establishing Shang-Chi’s speed, but also maintaining his calm and resolve. This is a character whose superpower is fighting on a whole other level.
Shang-Chi #2 is a great follow-up to the first issue, building off the familial storyline while showcasing Shang-Chi’s fighting ability and propensity to be an awesome super-spy.
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