Early Review: Shang-Chi #1
I know I haven’t read a lot of comics featuring Shang-Chi. The most I’ve read featuring the character was when he was on an Avengers team a few years ago, and even then, he fit a slot on the team as opposed to feeling like a character. With the spotlight turning on the character with an upcoming film it was only a matter of time he’d again get his own comic series and now it’s here… I want more. Shang-Chi #1 is beyond fantastic and has me wanting to explore more of the character’s history.
As I said, I don’t know much about Shang-Chi so I walked into the first issue a pretty blank slate. I know there’s some problematic things with the character in the past but my knowledge of the specifics are limited. So, I can really only review what I’ve read. Not surprisingly Gene Luen Yang knocks the first issue out of the park delivering a story that feels like a “classic kung-fu” story but with a bit more of a modern sense.
The story revolves around the Five Weapons Society, a secret cabal once ruled by Shang-Chi’s father. Playing off the familiar concept of different “houses,” the society is shaky in its alliance and organization. When a leadership vacuum is opened things are thrown further into chaos leading to the call for Shang-Chi to return to the group and prevent its further corruption.
Yang is an amazing writer who brings his own experiences to his stories. We’ve seen his perspective numerous times before and here he infuses the story with small details that deliver an authenticity that makes it feel like more than just a “Saturday movie matinee.” The concept of the story is something we’ve seen many times before but it’s what Yang includes that makes it all come together a stand out. A discussion about Shang-Chi’s English speaking patterns or another character’s horrible Chinese are the type of things that makes the comic more than a simple martial arts adventure. It adds depth to the characters that make them feel much more real and they also subtlety takes digs into how Shang-Chi has been depicted in the past. This is a chance to do right by the character and it’s clear Yang is taking that seriously.
Dike Ruan and Philip Tan handle the art duties with one handling the segments in the past and the other in the present. The styles are similar and for me the transition between the two was seamless. The two deliver segments that flow with action that feel modern but at the some time a bit of a wink and nod to classic martial arts films. There’s a bit of infusion of manga into it and the opening especially feels like old Fist of the North Star manga I have. Sebastian Cheng handles the color while Travis Lanham does the lettering. Cheng’s colors help the transition between the two art styles and it works well delivering a slight different that plays off the “flashback” type art we sometimes see in manga. Lanham handles the “translation” aspect of the dialogue well with some slight jumps around that are interesting to see. A “ha” is outside the translated section for example. It’s a small detail but interesting to me as a reader.
Shang-Chi #1 is fantastic. It hearkens back to classic martial arts films with lots of action, lots of family drama, but also modernizes them to rely less on stereotypes and instead focus more on the characters themselves. I feel like I know more about Shang-Chi from this one issue than all of the other comics I’ve read featuring him combined. This is a comic I’ve been hyped about and it thankfully lives up to my expectations and in many ways exceeds them.
Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Dike Ruan, Philip Tan
Color: Sebastian Cheng Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review