The hunt for Shang-Chi continues, and all it takes to flush him out is a traitor and an attempted massacre.  

Continuing from the highs of last issue, this series keeps exploring the new K’un L’un world. The style and sequence is almost completely the same, including the framed device of storytelling, although now it’s by way of a different character.

Shang-Chi, too, repeats his reluctance to fight while also showing how competent he can be, and it takes a tragedy of events to spur him into action. In this case, it’s a bit disappointing that the resolve the character felt prior to this issue has disappeared and must again be established, but the cliffhanger ends on a note of greater resolution so that we can see our hero actually start his heroic journey next issue. It does provide a pretty chilling moment, however, when Shang-Chi describes the horrors that he could commit if he were his father. Notice how the panels’ background go completely black at this point, and then culminate in a panel of completely blank/negative space, and Shang-Chi walks dismissively away from the others, backlit and thus in shadows.   

It shows how nicely integral the art is to the story here. The fight moves are clean and well-staged, the emotions nicely expressed. When Shang-Chi does finally fight back against the Laughing Skull, the darkness swirls, creating a vibrant and visual sense of drama. Shang-Chi reveals the tattoos on his arms in a dramatic gesture, and the soft watercolors that swirl around him almost pulse with texture. I absolutely love the way Dalibor Talajić draws hands.

That said, I want to tread into some dangerous waters by commenting on the depiction of Shang-Chi. It didn’t seem as noticeable to me last issue, but with this second one, it’s becoming clear that the artist’s rendition of Shang-Chi is not discernibly Chinese. I can forgive one or two elements of design, especially if the artist is not Chinese himself, so if eyes are not perfectly almond-shaped for example, it’s not really a big deal. But things are starting to compound. Shang-Chi here is sporting a decidedly sharper and Western nose, and his hair flows more thinly and, frankly, more brown, than would be expected. But hey, maybe he’s just been using a really good relaxing conditioner.   

Also, I’ll admit at times I confused the bubbly dialogue balloons of Shang-Chi’s drunken ramblings with actual thought balloons. Silly me. As if a comicbook would use thought balloons anymore!

The comic overall is so nicely paced, balancing a large cast, continuing to flesh out its world, and providing key fight choreography and intriguing character tension. This wouldn’t even have to be a Secret Wars tie-in to be a must-read comic in any universe.

Grade

A

Conclusion

This feels more than just an “else worlds” with familiar characters who simply dress in a different outfit. There’s some genuine re-invention of the Marvel world, realizing a very kung-fu world in the best sense of the genre. Shang-Chi is less a pacifist as he is simply stubborn, meaning we get a new way to think about a core heroic value of responsibility. With, you know, some superb action sequences and brilliant artwork. Of all the Secret Wars stuff I’ve read, I think I’d most want to keep reading about this one.