After an incredible first volume, Gene Luen Yang and Dike Ruan are back with a second volume that pits Shang-Chi against Marvel’s biggest heroes. Shang-Chi has taken over his father’s Five Weapons Society, and this series continues to evolve the character and his family in interesting ways. Collecting Shang-Chi #1-6, the creative team has Shang-Chi fight and fight alongside Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, and Iron Man just to name a few. Sounds like a no-brainer read, right?
The collection opens with Shang-Chi trying to make Five Weapons Society legitimate and turn around its evil ways. That means tracking down secret locations and operations unknown to him. With the help of Esme, he’s doing just that, but Spider-Man crosses 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. This complication persists throughout the entire collection, adding lots of conflict in every issue.
Yang does well to slowly unveil the awkwardness of Shang-Chi’s leadership of an evil organization to the larger superhero community. At the start, 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? This evolves as heroes like Captain America hear about what he’s up to and are unsure about Shang-Chi’s motives.
This first story arc doesn’t shy away from the weirdness of Marvel villains and A.I.M. agents as we see in the second issue. Shang-Chi ends up being the least interesting thing in the room when he attempts to infiltrate a supervillain auction, but given the setup, he’s an observer like the reader and that’s okay.
As the story progresses, Shang-Chi goes a bit rogue as he follows his heart and goes against Mr. Fantastic’s wishes. More specifically, Shang-Chi and his lost siblings head to the Baxter Building to break in. He’s putting his family first and knows superheroes have too much red tape to get around.
This series is without a doubt an action-packed thrill ride. Shang-Chi and his family must fight through all sorts of enemies, but also heroes too. Ruan draws an exceptional series with great detail and creative prowess. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ruan is drawing a Marvel event in the next three years. Tríona Tree Farrel does an exceptional job with the fantastical elements by Ruan, like the Negative Zone weirdness or the colorful bugs they fight in issue #4. Though Shang-Chi is young, Ruan draws a lot of emotion in him as if he’s lived a thousand years. There’s wisdom and care in the character you can see through his eyes.
This may be the greatest Shang-Chi series ever, which is evident from the complexity of the conflict and the incredible action. Gene Luen Yang has infused this character with a new purpose in a different role as he lives in his father’s shadow, all the while navigating the complex world of Marvel’s superhero elite.
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