Shang-Chi is back with a new ongoing this week, and in it, he’s fighting the entire Marvel universe. Seriously, the story arc is called “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe” and it kicks off with Spider-Man. It’s great to see Marvel give this character a full ongoing, especially after Gene Luen Yang and Dike Ruan did a great job reintroducing the character into public consciousness last September. It’s also great to see, as Yang told me he wasn’t sure how long he’d get to write the character when he kicked off the five-part miniseries. This new series builds off that five-part story, and it does a good job establishing the new parameters in which Shang-Chi operates.
Per the preview released on Friday, Shang-Chi has taken over his father’s cult-like organization known as the Five Weapons Society. Shang-Chi is trying to turn things around, but he needs to track down secret locations and operations unknown to him. With the help of Esme, he’s doing just that, but Spider-Man has crossed their path in this first issue thanks to a spider-tracer on the foot of a lead tying to Shang-Chi’s organization. Shang-Chi is living in his father’s shadow and doing his best to solve it, while on a smaller scale trying to keep a low profile and live a normal life. He’s got a quandary to resolve and it’s a good example of complicating a hero’s life to throw them in the deep end.
This also sets up an interesting angle, as Shang-Chi doesn’t want to share the fact he’s the head of a renowned evil organization and would rather not air out his laundry with other heroes or create confusion. That sets up an uneasy dynamic between Spider-Man and Shang-Chi. Does he tell his friend the full truth, or hope he goes away after some team-up action? Knowing Spider-Man, readers could probably guess Spidey isn’t one to leave a friend hanging.
There’s a fun dynamic in play between Esme and Shang-Chi as she’s bristly and from another world of justice, willing to go as far as killing bad guys. Shang-Chi will have none of that. You also get the feeling Shang-Chi is a natural born leader, but he’s also new to this and a bit embarrassed by his family’s past and has yet to own up to it. Spider-Man also has a unique relationship with Shang-Chi — one of mutual respect, and one that is tested a bit in the story.
Dike Ruan’s art, paired with colors by Tríona Farrell’s colors, is clean, heavy on the wider panels, and cinematic in nature. It’s cleaner and more certain than the previous miniseries and feels elevated. Spider-Man has an inhuman vibe at times, which plays off the emotional and very human Shang-Chi. In fact, Shang-Chi’s emotions are captured extremely well here, from pure joy in the heat of the moment to concern or worry when he hopes Spider-Man won’t figure things out. There’s a lot going on for Shang-Chi personally and Ruan doesn’t let us forget it.
Shang-Chi is back this week, and the story and art are even better than the first time Yang and Ruan joined forces. The complexities of Shang-Chi’s life now that he’s the boss of a huge organization add a new layer to the character while he attempts to keep Esme in line and Spider-Man none the wiser. The creators have captured the inherent goodness and relatability of Shang-Chi incredibly well while wrapping it all up in an action-packed package. Shang-Chi hasn’t been this entertaining in, well, maybe ever.
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