Gene Luen Yang continues his Shang-Chi epic with Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, and Travis Lanham, so you already know this is a series to watch! The first issue moves at a breakneck pace, reintroducing fans to Shang-Chi and several members of his supporting cast and catching readers up on his new status quo. As leader of the Five Weapons Society and reluctant guardian of the Ten Rings, our hero has a lot on his shoulders, and that means he doesn’t get a whole lot of time for a personal life. Seeing him try is a whole lot of fun, though.
This is particularly true when a fight breaks out on a mini-golf course, leading into a set piece that’s reminiscent of classic Jackie Chan action comedies. Every bit of the area is used in the fight, and there’s something supremely fun about seeing a supervillain being chucked through a tiny windmill. Yang and To clearly had a lot of fun planning this one out, and the excitement of the fight is infectious. Meanwhile, there’s always the creeping feeling that Shang-Chi’s new life in the Five Weapons Society is going to continue to make things worse for him and the ones he loves. In this way in particular, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings is already a sterling example of classic Marvel superhero storytelling. Heavy are the arms that wear the rings.
There are a few instances in which the quick pace feels like a detriment, but they’re small moments. It might have been interesting to see more of Shang-Chi’s efforts to find another way of returning the rings, rather than just sweeping that up in a caption box and then locking the rings away. I’m also curious to learn more about Shang-Chi’s continued internal struggle with taking charge of his father’s organization. Is it possible to remain a good man when you add even more power to the equation?
Of course, the previous volume did a lovely job of exploring these feelings, and it’s likely that this aspect will be fleshed out even more as the series continues. Overall, I respect the fact that Yang jumped straight to the fun stuff, continuing the high-octane energy and fun that his run with the character has become known for.
And boy, is it fun. Without spoiling the combatants Shang-Chi faces in the last act of this issue, I can safely say that this creative team will have quite a bit of work ahead of them to top this. Marcus To and Erick Arciniega make great use of a kind of “after-image” effect as Shang-Chi moves rapidly from one opponent to another. And thanks to the lighter hue in Shang-Chi’s after-images, the pages never feel cluttered, even with like a dozen baddies and seven Shang-Chis in one panel. It walks the line of being overwhelming, which makes it even more fun to read. It’s immediate, exciting, and very deadly. If that first fight feels like Drunken Master or Police Story, then this one is The Raid: Redemption.
This first issue is a blast from beginning to end, delivering exactly what I want from a Shang-Chi book and asking some interesting moral questions about its hero. The creative team also does an incredible job of using the visual language of kung-fu cinema for the action sequences, but executing them in a way that makes perfect sense for comics. For these reasons and my excitement for what comes next, I’m beyond glad to see the Master of Kung-Fu back in action.
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