This is the issue we’ve been waiting for! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the relaunch of Shang-Chi by Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan and Philip Tan. It’s been a fun, refreshing series thus far, with fascinating new characters, a whole new mythology developing and killer art. My one criticism of the first two issues is that they’ve been relatively light on action. And for the Master of Kung Fu, people expect action! Well Shang-Chi #3 brings the action! Spoilers below!
Published: November 25, 2020
Writer: Gene Yang
Penciler: Philip Tan, Dike Ruan
Cover Artist: Philip Tan
DEADLY FAMILY REUNION! Shang-Chi gets to know the family he never knew he had…But which of his siblings can he trust, and which are trying to kill him? Plus, witness the horrifying origin of Shang-Chi’s father!
Last issue, Brother Sabre and Sister Dagger saved Shang-Chi (or “Brother Hand”…which is simultaneously a badass name and kinda awkward at the same time) from Sister Hammer and her Jiangshi zombies. Shang-Chi didn’t escape unscathed, as he suffered an injury that left him with visions of the skeletal visage of his dead father and bizarre sparkling purple blood.
First we start in China in the year 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. Zheng Zu and his Five Weapons Society futilely try to fight off the foreign invaders when they find that the sacred shrine to Zheng Zu’s dead younger brother, Zheng Yi, has been defiled. This causes Zheng Zu to go off on his commander of the Five Weapons, beheading him in front of his siblings and revealing that he killed Zheng Yi because he was weak, and absorbed his life force Highlander style. “Strength always consumes weakness!” Zheng Zu declares. Following what fallout of the Boxer Rebellion, Zheng Zu establishes four of the five houses in each of the countries that took part, with only the House of the Deadly Hand remaining in China.
Back in modern times, Shang-Chi is mostly healed, though he’s still suffering from some after effects that he doesn’t fully understand. He and Brother Sabre have grown close enough where Brother Sabre has shared his birth name, Takeshi. Sister Dagger isn’t so warm. The three train in the House of the Deadly Dagger in France under an unnamed master, who is preparing them for battle against the Jiangshi. After a misunderstanding, Shang-Chi offends Sister Dagger, and in an effort to avoid a fight, he leaves the house and heads out on his own to do some research.
With the help of Leiko Wu (we last saw her in the first issue), he finds that Sister Hammer and her minions are attacking the Chinese Art Exhibit of the Louvre. Shang-Chi goes there to confront his sister, and is joined by Brother Sabre and Sister Dagger, who were following him. The three have an epic showdown with Sister Hammer’s minions before one of her Jiangshi show up with an urn she’s been looking for. Before Shang-Chi can neutralize the Jiangshi, Sister Hammer orders it to explode and Shang-Chi jumps in between the explosion and his Dagger siblings to keep them safe.
Sister Hammer gets away with her urn, but Shang-Chi’s selflessness has validated Brother Sabre’s faith in him and even earned the respect of Sister Dagger, who finally tells him her birth name, Esme.
This is the action packed issue we’ve been looking for! We finally get to see more of Brother Sabre and Sister Dagger, including all three of them training together and fighting together against Sister Hammer and her minions. Dike Ruan’s art absolutely pops in this issue, including with a breathtaking full page panel of the three battling together. Colorist Sebastian Cheng really outdid himself, as the bright colors on each panel really bring the action to life.
The only bad is that there are only two more issues left! Okay, if I have to nitpick, I wish we got some more training and time for the Shang-Chi and his two Dagger siblings to bond. Training montages don’t work quite as well on page as they do on screen, but they’re also such a staple of martial arts storytelling that I wish we got to see more.
Gene Luen Yang masterfully weaves some true Chinese historical events like the Boxer Rebellion into his Shang-Chi story to explain some of the Five Weapons Society background. If you’re curious to read more from Yang about the Boxer Rebellion, he wrote a two part graphic novel called Boxers & Saints.
RATING – 5/5
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.