Marvel’s Shang-Chi proves he’s a better hero than Spider-Man by being what Peter isn’t, showing it’s possible to be powerful AND responsible.
Warning: contains spoilers for Shang-Chi vs. The Marvel Universe #1!
Marvel’s Shang-Chi proves he’s a better hero than Spider-Man for a very important reason: he’s actually responsible! In the first pages of Shang-Chi vs. The Marvel Universe #1, written by Gene Luen Yang with art by Dike Ruan and colors by Triona Farrell, readers are introduced to a Shang-Chi that, while not fully formed, is written like an adult who learns from his mistakes (while Spider-Man infamously does not). Shang-Chi is the adult version of Spider-Man fans have demanded for years – and the dynamic between the two could be explored in future MCU films and comics to come.
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In his previous series Shang-Chi, the eponymous hero fought against his evil father Zheng Zhu (who was actually Fu Manchu in the original continuity, but changed when Marvel lost the rights to the character), who led the criminal Five Weapons Society organization. Upon his defeat, Shang-Chi succeeded his father and inherited the Five Weapons Society for himself. Now torn between his desire for a normal life and his obligations to the “family business,” Shang-Chi has to maintain a delicate balance between his two lives – something awfully familiar to fans of Spider-Man.
More parallels between Shang-Chi and Spider-Man pop up throughout the issue, and Shang-Chi handles all of them without wallowing in self-pity or second-guessing his decisions. His date is interrupted by his sister Esme who assaults a Triad member, but being a leader, he assumes a leadership stance (“The Supreme Commander is allowed to go on dates!”). Spider-Man attacks her through a misunderstanding (he was hunting the Triad member too), but Shang-Chi diffuses the situation without escalation and greets Peter as friends. And when Esme confronts Shang-Chi about making a choice between his family and his own wants and needs, he doesn’t hesitate – he chooses his family, even if it means remaining the active Supreme Commander of the Five Weapons Society.
This is not to say that Shang-Chi has no doubts or reservations about his decisions. When Spider-Man asks to help Shang-Chi and his sister – whilst being his usual talkative and inquisitive self – Shang-Chi thinks “You can help by not asking any more questions about my family so I can pretend my life is simpler than it actually is.” Rather, once he makes a decision, he sticks by it. If Spider-Man were in charge of the Five Weapons Society, he likely would abandon the entire enterprise altogether – but Shang-Chi sees the benefits of being a leader of such an organization, regardless of its origins. The decision, however difficult it may be, is still made. This could lead to an interesting dynamic if Shang-Chi ever meets Spider-Man in the MCU; perhaps Shang-Chi could be Peter’s teacher in more than martial arts (as he became during the Spider-Island event).
Spider-Man would have refused to compromise in the above situation, but adult life is full of compromises. It’s a mess of contradictions, and the key to being an adult is pushing through and solving those problems instead of letting indecision rule one’s life. For that reason and for many others, Shang-Chi is positioned as the hero Spider-Man is not: a man who owns his decisions and takes responsibility for his own power.
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