Shang-Chi has been nothing less than exciting and action-packed since Gene Luen Yang took over the series. Yang has also done some important world-building involving Shang-Chi’s family, creating a giant tapestry of characters to explore and use. With the second story arc collected in a second volume, readers can now explore the third story arc out this week. To say “Family of Origin” makes the story around Shang-Chi’s family more complex would be an understatement.
Shang-Chi by Gene Luen Yang Vol. 3: Family of Origin collects Shang-Chi #7-12, wrapping up the series before spinning into Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings. This story arc lives up to the name, introducing Shang-Chi’s grandfather as the main antagonist, featuring siblings galore, and even an appearance by Shang-Chi’s dead father. By the end of the collection, Shang-Chi’s lineage is more robust while thoroughly entertaining, with twists and turns that send Shang-Chi to Hawaii, Canada, and even magical realms.
Yang opens the book and introduces a new backstory via Shang-Chi’s now-healthy mother, which creates a kind of gateway to Ta Lo. Interspersed in the first two issues, we get some interesting origin information about Shang-Chi’s father and get to see him at a very young age. These scenes don’t bog down the story but are used economically amongst intense action scenes set in the present.
Plotting for this series is exciting with good progression, be it the characters chasing down the villains or escaping imminent death. It all builds to a climactic final chapter with an all-out war going on in Chinatown, New York while Shang-Chi is tied up in his own battle in the dimension of Ta Lo.
If Ta Lo sounds familiar, that’s because it was a major location in the Shang-Chi movie. That’s not the only connection to the films, either, as Yang introduces the Ten Rings to the Marvel Comics universe. They aren’t the same as in the movie, but the iconography matches. Shang-Chi is fighting chieftain Xin, who desires the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi has them, but we also learn they may corrupt him. That element has haunted Shang-Chi from the very start of Yang’s run as he wishes to avoid being anything like his father.
The final issue also looks at Shang-Chi utilizing the Ten Rings before his big new relaunch in July. It also sets up that series well with a good two-page epilogue of sorts. In the final pages, we’re given info on many of the characters that popped up in the series so far, which helps create a clean slate in some respects.
Art is split between Dike Ruan in the first two issues and Marcus To in the last four issues. This series always seems to get right in exciting action no matter how many characters are fighting in a given panel. To’s art uses a fluid, thicker line that looks great and helps distinguish characters when the action gets heavy.
Colors are by Triona Farrell for #7-8, Sunny Gho for #9, and Erick Arciniega for #10-12. Arciniega makes the supernatural effects zip, like the Ten Rings and how they glow and other magical powers. These aren’t people who just know how to fight, but folks who have supernatural abilities too. To is also great at packing a lot of characters on the page, which is a must with the war scenes in this issue.
This collection continues Yang’s impeccable run that has made Shang-Chi more relevant and complex than ever. The ever-growing supporting cast of family members adds interesting layers, while the flashbacks help us understand Shang-Chi’s fear of turning evil and becoming like his father.
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