Fans of the Marvel movies have plenty of ways to get into comics, and just one of those options is the Marvel-Verse digest-sized anthologies. Marvel Comics is slowly making its way through their stables of popular heroes in a series of smaller-sized trade paperbacks called Marvel-Verse. The latest focuses on Shang-Chi and previous volumes include Captain Marvel, after Deadpool & Wolverine, Iron Man, Venom, Thanos, and Black Panther have all gotten the treatment.
This collection contains five stories: Wolverine: First Class #9, Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #2, Free Comic Book Day 2011 (Spider-Man) #1, Master of Kung Fu #126, and The Legend of Shang-Chi #1. All told, these stories feature the modern take on Shang-Chi who is no longer a secret spy, but more of a fighting guru who helps those in need and teaches others. It gives readers the sense that Shang-Chi is a calm and considerate hero with plenty of patience. He starts by teaching Wolverine a lesson and along the way guides Spider-Man and goes on his own adventures too.
The opening story is by Fred Van Lente with art by Francis Portela and colors by Ulises Arreola that opens with Logan attempting to gain help in finding Sabretooth. He’s kidnapped Kate Pryde, but Logan doesn’t have any leads. Shang-Chi turns this visit into a lesson, which frustrates Logan and seemingly goes nowhere. Cut to Wolverine fighting Sabretooth in an exciting short adventure scene, and Shang-Chi’s lesson pays off by the end. It’s a satisfying tale featuring Shang-Chi’s incredible wisdom and patience.
The second story is by Paul Tobin and Matteo Lolli that heavily features Spider-Man. It’s a middle-grade style story that loops Shang-Chi in later in the story when he heads to Spider-Man’s high school to give a lesson. It’s a slightly odd choice for this book since Spider-Man is much older in traditional interactions with Shang-Chi, but it does feature Shang-Chi as an authority figure.
Next up is Humberto Ramos and Dan Slott’s Free Comic Book Day 2011 story. It opens with Spider-Man fighting Spider-Woman, which goes on for a while, and similar to the previous tale doesn’t introduce Shang-Chi till later. Once he shows up — he tells Spider-Man it would basically be rude to intervene in his battle — the story switches to a somewhat iconic scene as Spider-Man learns a new kind of kung fu. This Spider-Fu was actually referenced in Shang-Chi #1 last week, so it feels important.
The fourth story is by former pro wrestler CM Punk and Dalibor Talajić, and has Shang-Chi take on a doctor villain named Prasis. It’s a one-shot that has a cool look and good action. It’s an odd choice to give Shang-Chi a monkey, but it gives him something to talk to and interact with. This story also has a somewhat funny twist on the Pizza Rat and has a darker tone.
Finally, February’s The Legend of Shang-Chi by Alyssa Wong and Andie Tong wraps up the collection. There isn’t a lot to this story and it’ll be over and done with even more quickly if you speed through the fight scenes. It’s a perfectly fine fight comic one-shot, albeit it was likely planned to coincide its release with the Shang-Chi movie, so its main target was probably casual fans who haven’t been reading Marvel Comics. With that approach in mind, casual readers can dig the fight scenes and get a sense of what Shang-Chi is about. If you’re looking for more than a single action scene and a light entry point, however, you’ll want to look elsewhere. In that case, it suits this collection, but it’s mostly fighting comics stuff with little Shang-Chi development.
For a 120-page primer on Shang-Chi, Marvel-Verse: Shang-Chi does a good job. This version of Shang-Chi likely matches the upcoming film version, who has a strong presence as a force for good. Unfortunately, two of the five stories are easily skipped, but for someone even slightly interested in the character you’ll find something here to like. Much like previous volumes of Marvel-Verse, this series may not be the best way to be introduced to a hero, but it’s a start.
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