Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #3 is published by Marvel Comics, written by Gene Luen Yang, art by Marcus To, colours by Erick Arciniega, and letters by Travis Lanham. After the Ten Rings are stolen and he’s betrayed by his friends in Mi:6, Shang-Chi hunts those he once fought alongside.
This is the most surprising plot of the run so far. The first half of the comic is relatively similar to the genre we have seen in the first issue. It is obviously martial arts based but the introduction of spies has given it a twist of espionage, especially with the reveal of the betrayal. This is exciting and funny considering Leiko Wu almost described how quickly Shang-Chi would escape the island in the last issue before it was proven true. But it is the rings themselves that pose a huge surprise, bringing forth a whole new aspect to the story. This happens suddenly and leads to a huge increase in pace. It also brings with it a horror element to Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #3. This was totally unexpected and Yang’s writing of this moment is incredible. There’s an explosion of confusion and a frantic intensity to the subsequent fight. The ending is powerful and has multiple cliffhangers.
This is also a fantastic issue for character development. Shang’s turmoil is excellently scripted. He is still reeling from being betrayed by his closest friends. Struggling to remain calm despite the incredible anger gives the issue tension. He is not a character that will have explosive outbursts, but his direct sincerity is as damaging as his punches. What is really endearing about Shang-Chi is compassion and empathy. Not only can that be seen in this issue towards those he likes but for his enemies as well. He finds reasons to forgive and common ground.
The art is stunning. This is a rapidly moving issue and the ferocity that can be found is terrific. To is a master at illustrating martial arts, depicting multiple events happening at once to denote unimaginable speed inside a single panel. There’s a frenetic, hypersonic momentum in this comic and the fact that that energy can radiate from a still image is remarkable. More of the hero’s supporting characters make appearances and their designs are beautifully ridiculous. As the issue transforms into a horror it transitions visually as well. The threat is insidious and skin-crawling. It is often presented in close-ups, intensifying the danger and creating a trapped feeling. The instantaneous reveal of the body horror is brutal and terrifying.
The colours are also slightly shifted to represent the change in the comic. The Ten Rings glow turns into a bright blue from the previous warm orange, installing a creepy and eerie atmosphere. But then as the action kicks off again it is a tidal wave of contrasting tones in the background. The interspersing between extremes in this regard means that it is hard to take your eyes off the page. The lettering is terrific and the SFX is small yet dramatic, capturing the intensity of the action.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #3 is a game changer. Any previous thoughts of where the series may go have evaporated with the second half of the issue. The story hasn’t just been elevated, it has been shot into orbit. It isn’t just the threat that is created or the evolution in the genre to bring some horror to the martial arts plot. But Yang has also brought depth to the character development and the dialogue, giving even more weight to the all-action run. And the art team are delivering a jaw-dropping display as Shang-Chi’s world is being completely overhauled.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #3 is available where comics are sold.
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #3 is a game changer. Any previous thoughts of where the series may go have evaporated with the second half of the issue. The story hasn’t just been elevated, it has been shot into orbit. It isn’t just the threat that is created or the evolution in the genre to bring some horror to the martial arts plot.
William is a screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”