With great power comes great responsibility, and Shang-Chi has a major responsibility to uphold. Shang-Chi is responsible for atoning his father Zheng Fu and turning the Five Weapons Society to a force for good and meticulously wielding his Ten Rings. They seem to be able to do whatever they please, but all that is required of them is to defeat their adversaries and to hold on to their host, Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #1, written by Gene Luen Yang, with art by Marcus To, colors by Erick Arciniega, and letters by VC’s Travis Lanham, explores young Shang-Chi’s new role as the protector of the Ten Rings and Supreme Commander of the Five Weapons Society. Shang-Chi is concerned about the Rings’ potential to cause harm, just as his father was. When a source inside the Society puts the Rings up to auction and all the villainous organizations have come to purchase them, Shang-Chi may need to face his fears sooner than expected.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #1 wastes absolutely no time in starting the narrative, immediately establishing the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the Rings and Shang-Chi’s frustration and fear towards them, with just enough exposition to bring new readers up to speed. This issue is easy to read because of the efficiency and clarity in writing. The issue’s tone is set by Shang-Chi’s inner monologue, which is enhanced by his unique serious but witty speech patterns and laconic speech patterns. This series has high stakes and the spectacular, glorious finale is a clear indication of that.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #1 boasts some of the best fight choreography in the Marvel canon. There are moments of quiet, but there is tension throughout. Faster scenes like Shang-Chi trying to bring the Rings back to Ta Lo up the mountain, or his disastrous date with Delilah have an almost feverish quality. This comic works in Shang-Chi’s favor due to the stress he is going through, as well as his fear of the Ten Rings corruptive power and allure to terrorists, ninjas and gangsters.
Shang-Chi’s abject fear about the Rings and their potential to drive their human host to evil weighs heavily on him as he mulls over the fate of his supposedly evil father. This story is a great success. Shang-Chi’s fear about the Rings and their potential to drive the human host to evil weighs heavily on him as he contemplates his father’s fate. From midway through the issue onward, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #1 is packed with back-to-back fights, pitting Shang-Chi against evil organizations ranging from the Hand and A.I.M. The Inner Demons to Shang-Chi. These battles aren’t crowded or cluttered. Shang-Chi is skilled at coordinating fights that flow seamlessly into one another. Betrayal and backstabbing aside, it is a treat to watch Shang-Chi fight his way as an army of one against many enemies even before he uses the Rings. He assumes an intimidating yet cool demeanor.
Artist Marcus To lends a distinct but familiarly Marvel-esque style to the visuals for this issue. Line art in this issue is bold and thick, but softened around the edges by a chalk-like texture or painterly texture. It is particularly evident in fight scenes with their bold, vivid painted strokes and environments. This art style looks amazing on the characters, particularly Shang-Chi in the dramatic fight scenes. They also have fantastic panel flow and composition. The thick lines can sometimes be a problem in this composition. Backgrounds are as boldly and thickly drawn as the foreground. This creates a confused textural unity.
Equal parts witty, tense, and terrifying, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #1 is a formidable start to a series, perfectly summing up Shang-Chi’s character, his potential development arc, and his plight as a repentant hero with a tall order to resist power and corruption. It seems that he’s up to the challenge, judging by the events in this issue.