REVIEW: ‘The Legend of Shang-Chi,’ Issue #1

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The Legend of Shang-Chi - But Why Tho?The Legend of Shang-Chi #1 is written by Alyssa Wong, illustrated by Andie Tong, colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, and lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham. It is published by Marvel Comics. Shang-Chi is called by his on-again/off-again love interest, MI-6 agent Leiko Wu, to steal an ancient katana called the Equinox Blade. The Equinox Blade is rumored to steal the souls of its victims, making whoever wields it virtually unbeatable. While infiltrating the British Museum, Shang learns that someone else has stolen the blade: the cybernetic assassin Lady Deathstrike.

Though Shang-Chi was recently the star of his own miniseries that effectively revamped his history for the modern age, this one-shot also serves as a perfect introduction to the character. You don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Shang’s previous stories; all you need to know is that he’s a skilled fighter and extremely calm under pressure. And it seems like an amoral half-machine assassin with a soul-stealing sword is a lot of pressure. The creative team deserves all the praise for delivering a solid one-shot that explores a character who’s primed to explode in popularity with his feature film debut later this year.

Wong’s script presents the base elements of Shang’s personality. He is straight to the point but not blunt, he’s calm and composed but possessed of a biting wit, and he will always try to do the right thing. Wong said in an interview that Shang-Chi “radiates ‘Good Older Brother’ energy” and as the oldest of three, I totally get those vibes myself. Wong also presents an interesting shakeup by pitting Shang against Deathstrike. Deathstrike is well known for fighting the X-Men, particularly Wolverine. Fighting Shang is a study in contrasts because she is virtually the opposite of him in terms of personality and even powers (he has none, she has Adamantium nails and cybernetic enhancements). I wouldn’t mind seeing Deathstrike as more of an antagonist to Shang in the future, particularly with how the one-shot ends.

Tong is no stranger to martial arts books or Asian heroes, having illustrated Tekken and Green Lantern: Legacy. With The Legend of Shang-Chi, he gets to go all out on the martial arts action—which makes for some spectacular imagery. One image features Shang and Deathstrike locked in mortal combat, with his hands seeming to become a blur as he blocks every parry and thrust of her blade. Another page features a cascading series of panels that depicts just how easily matched the two are. Rosenberg’s colors are utterly stunning and follow in the footsteps of the previous Shang-Chi miniseries by giving Shang predominantly red clothing. She also gives the characters different skin tones; Shang and Leiko have olive skin while Deathstrike’s skin is darker. I like that the characters’ separate ethnicities are addressed in this subtle, yet significant way. Too often, Asian characters get lumped into a monolith even when they have separate nationalities.

The Legend of Shang-Chi #1 is a perfect standalone tale for the Master of Kung Fu, featuring plenty of martial arts action and a premise perfect for Shang-Chi. If you loved the previous Shang-Chi miniseries or want to know more about the character, this is the book for you.

The Legend of Shang-Chi #1 is available wherever comics are sold and through Comixology using our affiliate link.

The Legend of Shang-Chi #1
5

TL;DR

The Legend of Shang-Chi #1 is a perfect standalone tale for the Master of Kung Fu, featuring plenty of martial arts action and a premise perfect for Shang-Chi. If you loved the previous Shang-Chi miniseries or want to know more about the character, this is the book for you.