Review: The Master Of King-Fu Versus The Marvel Universe In ‘Shang-Chi’ #1
by Tony Thornley
If the Marvel Universe has been lacking anything in the last decade, it’s been more of Shang-Chi, the incredibly complicated but awesome star of Marvel Studios’ upcoming film. Outside of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and a handful of one-shots and minis, the character has mostly been absent. All that changes with Shang-Chi #1.
This immediately feels like the title character’s coming out party as one of Marvel’s A-listers. Following up on last year’s mini-series by the same creative team, this is positioned to move Shang-Chi into something big. It’s a big swing from Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, Triona Farrell, and Travis Lanham.
Shang-Chi has inherited leadership of the Five Weapons Society, his father’s criminal organization. He’s determined to make it a force for good, however, it’s not going to be easy, as it may put him face to face with the entire Marvel Universe as he tries to make good. First up? The Amazing Spider-Man!
Yang has crafted a new world for Shang-Chi that is both a fascinating in-universe situation and also gets the character past his unfortunate Yellow Peril roots. It’s immediately engaging and he gets the reader up to speed quickly, whether or not you’ve read the prequel mini-series. It builds on the idea that Shang-Chi himself is one of the most charming and skilled individuals on the planet, and then pushes the conflict of his father’s legacy forward. It’s a lot packed into one issue, but Yang executes it damn well.
Lanham does a great job bringing the script to life in the dialogue and captions. There’s a lot of information to relay here. He does it in several clever ways, and always makes it feel like part of the art.
Ruan and Farrell compliment the script and bring it to life on every page. Ruan’s line art has a frenetic energy that evokes classic kung fu films, no matter what is happening on the page. He has a great eye for point of view, and laying out a page to make the fights seem like they’re actually in motion. Farrell’s colors are heavily saturated in a way that feels like a movie, adding to Ruan’s line work, while also making sure that everything comes to life on the page. She uses specific palettes in a way that creates mood and compliments the action without taking away from the linework.
In short, with Shang-Chi’s film less than six months out, this is exactly the launch the character needed to not just put him on the map, but make him a star. I can’t wait to see what the creative team has in store for us.
Shang-Chi #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.
The Master of Kung-Fu returns in his first ongoing in years. It’s a joy to read, with fun building building, interesting conflict and some great art. It’s a must-read, especially with the character returning to prominence.