Shang-Chi #1 Review

Written by: Gene Luen Yang
Art by: Dike Ruan, Philip Tan, Sebastian Cheng, and VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 30, 2020

I have been looking forward to this book mainly because I am a huge Gene Luen Yang fan. I am also interested in Shen-Chi, but I am looking for Yang to guide my way as I have little experience with the character. So, how is this first issue? Let’s find out…

The book opens with a flashback to the early Qing Dynasty, where we see that the Emperor has banned all martial arts. How dare he do such a thing, especially in a book all about just that! Of course, the Emperor doesn’t care about a silly comic book, but the Sorceror Brothers do and thank god for that because what they do here sets up centuries of stories and Shang-Chi’s in particular. It’s a challenging opener and a bit of a slower start than I expected, but once we move on, things start to take shape and get more exciting and personal.

Gene Luen Yang brings the story to the present, and instead of going right to Shang-Chi, he shows us the House of the Deadly Staff’s hidden workings just as a power shift is about to happen. Any martial arts fan will get a kick out of this as Yang introduces the book’s villain and finally gets to Shang-Chi.

If you were expecting to see Shang-Chi doing flying kicks and throwing blazing-fast punches right away, you might be disappointed at first. Instead, he is working at a restaurant, flinging packages, and cooking pineapple buns. Yang always writes good side characters, and so it’s no surprise that with little effort, he gives the reader two interesting characters, Grandma Wang and her niece, Delilah. The latter possibly being a partner, if not a love interest. That continues as a character from Shang-Chi’s past arrives and sets up a big action scene while also giving some useful background information on the character.

The issue ends with an intriguing development where enemies become friends, and family becomes a battleground. It’s the last bit where Yang finally lets loose, and he and Dike Ruan dish out the action I was expecting from this book.

This was a good opening issue that may start a bit slow but picks up by the end. I like both the present and flashback art by Dike Ruan and Philip Tan, but I can’t say that this is a must-read. I was intrigued by the cliffhanger, but I was not into it enough to put it on my pull list after this issue. Since Shang-Chi is not a huge character, I worry that this book might be left behind with so many others on the shelf.

Final Thoughts:

This was a nice start by Gene Luen Yang, but I am afraid it needed to be more to get readers interested. Still, if you like the character of Shang-Chi or the writing of Gene Luen Yang, you should check it out.


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