The debut issue of Shang-Chi was fantastic. Feeling like a breath of fresh air, the first issue set a new path for the character-building off of his history but at the same time attempted to right the stereotypes and wrongs of the past. Shang-Chi #2 ups the action as Shang-Chi goes after those who attacked him in the first issue but it’s not all fighting, there’s a lot of heart as well.
Written by Gene Luen Yang, Shang-Chi #2 delivers more than the usual foot soldier then boss battle you might expect. Yang adds depth by focusing on the relationship between Shang-Chi and his younger sister Shi-Hua. We learn of their abusive upbringing and the type of child Shang-Chi was. While he might be cool, calm, and focused, now, as a child he was spoiled and troublesome. His actions put his sister in danger and as we learn lead to her current situation. It establishes not just how Shang-Chi has grown but also the friction that exists between the two. The rivalry is more than just a simple jockeying for power, there’s a somewhat relatable past that adds depth to the story.
And that’s part of the brilliance of what Yang has put together. While the series could easily be the expected “kung-fu” story of a bad guy trying to gain power, the focus on the family adds so much. While the world is fantastical, those with siblings can relate to a lot of it. We have gotten our other siblings in trouble. There is probably grudges, even a small one, over incidents from when we were kids. Even those without a sibling can relate to similar situations concerning friends. While the story is fantasy, the grudges are rooted in a reality many of us have experienced and can relate to.
The art is split between Dike Ruan and Philip Tan. One handles the flashbacks while one handles the present. Sebastian Cheng handles the colors and Travis Lanham does lettering. Though the art is split, it flows well between the two. The switch isn’t jarring and not too noticeable. There’s also some beautiful art. It’s hard to say exactly what without spoiling it by the visuals and colors pop on the page with an almost magical element about them. There’s also an interesting use of panels as the “quieter” and “calmer” moments are broken up with standard block styles and the action leans more towards angled panels and spreads. There’s also a clear influence with classic manga visual tropes without leaning in to them too much and overdoing it. It has those elements but is still very much “Marvel” in the presentation.
Shang-Chi #2 is another win for the team updating what could easily fall into stereotypes. The action is solid but it’s the more human moments that really stand out in the issue. This is an issue, and series, that realizes that the main character at the center is what’s interesting, not just action sequences. Shang-Chi matures the character and series and shows that with a little work, classic characters can feel new and fresh while still honoring what has come before.
Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Dike Ruan, Philip Tan
Color: Sebastian Cheng Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review