This new series from Gene Luen Yang, Marcus To, and Erik Arciniega is already embracing Shang-Chi’s full history in exciting ways, tying into his years with MI-6 and the original run of Master of Kung-Fu. This issue sees Shang-Chi reunited with an old flame, who puts him on the trail of a criminal mastermind he faced many years ago. The whole setup feels like the kind of classic stealth adventure Shang-Chi often found himself on back in the day, but it quickly takes a turn into even more interesting territory. By hanging the story on the concept of Shang-Chi confronting a villain from his past, this action-heavy and nostalgic trip serves to show Shang-Chi that some things never change.
Of course, like in any good spy action story, there’s much more to the battle at hand than meets the eye, and the ultimate twist in the story is well done. Without spoiling anything, I was wondering through a good portion of this issue why we spent so much time checking back in on the Hand while Shang-Chi was in the middle of a very different adventure. The answer brings with it some great reveals and setups for where the series will go from here.
All of that character and plot development has to happen on the go, however, because this issue is wall-to-wall action. Aside from a few quiet moments at the beginning to catch readers up on Shang’s new status quo and his difficulties navigating his personal and professional life, we are right there in the thick of things with Shang-Chi and Leiko Wu as they fight for their lives. The body language between the two characters tells us so much, even as the occasional narration boxes fill in the gaps.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this issue is how this latest mission seems to really get under Shang-Chi’s skin. We’ve gotten so used to seeing him trying to keep a handle on everything. After all, he’s the head of a criminal organization and the keeper of some of the most dangerous weapons in the cosmos. But when it comes to Leiko Wu, his mind and spirit are going north and south. Shang-Chi’s always been a bit of a reactionary character, but he seems to be fighting against his own better judgement throughout the issue, unsure of why he’s reacting in such a way. And react he does, as this issue treats readers to some fun fight scenes and plenty of classic spy tropes, from hidden underwater entrances to mind-controlled assassins to all manner of booby traps. Some of the larger glimpses at the villain’s lair are a bit lacking in distinct details, but that’s a small gripe when the overall package offers a really fun time, especially for fans of classic Shang-Chi.
But at its heart, this issue is about rekindling lost relationships, and it does so by delving deep into its lead’s history. From the return of an old villain to the realization that some loves never die, the latest issue of Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings puts its central character through the wringer.
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