What’s up everyone! Welcome to Beyond The Panel. Coming at you today with talk about the debut of Shang-Chi #1! Every now and then I like to chance it on a new Marvel book, and right now that book seems to be Shang-Chi. A character who honestly has been long overdue for a solo series, probably since Hickman’s run of Avengers I would say. So as I said, long overdue. And it made me wonder, just what kind of experience would this book offer. There is a whole corner of the Marvel Universe that we don’t get to explore often enough, and this book might be the best entrypoint to get there.
Now before we go any further into this debut issue, the big question is how new reader friendly is this. While this book would be giving longtime Shang-Chi fans what they have been waiting for, you still want to make sure that this is a book that someone simply interested in the hero can pick up without feeling lost. To that I would say that this might feel like a lot of new information to absorb as a new reader. Even for me it felt like I was learning a lot of things which were either new or that I was never aware of before. That said, it was nothing that should have lost you. If anything, this should be an enlightening experience considering the aim for a book like this is to reinvent the character. Something which I enjoy these days about most of these solo series. The creative team is usually passionate enough about the character they are working on that everything from that first issue forward is changing everything you once knew.
From there, we jumped right into the thick of this story, which focused on the history of this ancient and evil secret society. The story was fairly straightforward, and in turn we were able to understand the importance of this story in relation to what was unfolding in the present. It took no time at all for us to also get our first taste of the story which would give us family, betrayal and justice. The bit with betrayal in particular, as that tends to always be the catalyst for stories like this. Their approach to this was fortunately nothing you would call predictable as this is all new territory to explore.
When it came to this world of death and destruction Shang-Chi thought he left behind long ago, it didn’t take long to understand what was meant by this. Especially when they introduced us to this ancient and evil secret society. Even if this wasn’t a world which Shang-Chi was familiar with, things began to click for us. That was exciting because this left us with a lot of anticipation for things to begin coming clear for Shang-Chi. The realization of what isn’t just a cult, the danger that is coming for him, not to mention the idea of family which might get him killed if he doesn’t first understand these secrets to his past which everyone seems more aware of than he does.
What you do appreciate about this book is that there is a writer working on this who is American Born Chinese. You wouldn’t think this is too important if you don’t see the world through that lens, and you probably should, but it is important to have a writer like this who knows how to acknowledge all of the cultural things an outsider would not genuinely understand. Addressing the festivities of New Years, the way westerners treat Chinese people, and other things which might go over your head under different circumstances.
Aside from the story, if there was one thing which worried me most about this book before flipping open to that first page, it was the idea that this book was not going to have the most satisfying interior work. I’m glad to say that this art team met expectations for this book. For all the hype that was following this book, the best way to disappoint would have been to give us lackluster artwork. From start to finish I was impressed by the work that went into this. Especially the first scene which used a style of art which I found very fitting for the cultural elements of this story. Having a separate artist to handle that was an excellent choice for again the style, though also the distinction from everything else that would follow. From there, we jumped into the style for the main story which while not as distinguished, still captured what we needed to see from this world of Shang-Chi’s. I particularly enjoyed the detailing of everything unique to Chinatown, where this first issue mostly takes place. Beyond this, the action stands out to you because the opportunity was not wasted to show just how masterful Shang-Chi can be with his hands, and with his body in general. It’s one thing to know this guy is the weapon, but it is another thing to see that in action whether in a casual setting, or in battle.
In the end, this debut first issue was a jaw-dropping start to this new chapter in the legend of Shang-Chi. They pulled very few punches revealing this whole new world which neither us or Shang-Chi understood existed.