We are now just days away from the second full-length film as part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Despite a couple trailers, a Marvel-sponsored featurette, and several clues dropped by cast and crew of the movie, much of the plot of the movie and its place within the larger MCU universe remains a mystery. Using what we already know, can we fill in the missing puzzle pieces to determine where Shang Chi will take us in the MCU and also where to invest if we are playing the speculation game?
Let’s dig into what we know to find out the upcoming 25th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What We Know About Shang Chi
The evil organization known as the Ten Rings goes back as far as the opening moments of the MCU. Back in the first Iron Man, Tony Stark is captured by the sinister syndicate and is forced to build a bomb for them. After he escapes as Iron Man, Stark eventually returns with a new Iron Man suit to destroy the Ten Rings’ base of operations in Afghanistan.
The organization also appears prominently in Iron Man 3 as the front for a fake Mandarin character played by an actor named Trevor Slattery. They also appear in Ant-Man as a partners with Hydra in an effort to buy the Yellowjacket suit and technology from Darren Cross.
In Shang Chi, we finally dig down into the roots of the Ten Rings and their origins. We know Shang Chi’s father is the head of this group. Also, that Chi was raised to be an assassin within Ten Rings. He left that life and is now estranged from his father.
The Ten Rings as a terrorist organization is not mentioned in Marvel Comics until Ironheart #1 from 2018. The beginnings of the Ten Rings were from the villain The Mandarin who receives his superpowers from 10 physical rings he designed from alien technology. The first appearance of this character and the Ten Rings are from Tales of Suspense #50 and the values have been steadily climbing. A CGC 5.0 that sold for $300 in 2019 now has officially crossed the $1,000 mark.
Presumably, Shang Chi’s father, Tony Leung, will play a version of the Mandarin as the leader of the Ten Rings.
As seen in the trailer, one of the evil henchmen in this movie – likely a Ten Rings assassin – is Razor Fist. His arms are designed as swords and he has served as an archenemy of Shang Chi since 1975.
The first appearance of this villain occurs in Master of Kung Fu #29 and what few graded copies exist have also been soaring in the past two years. A CGC 9.6 copy of this book used to sell for under $200 in 2019. It was most recently sold for $557 by ComicConnect auctions. It remains to be seen if Razor Fist makes it past this movie. So this is likely not a strong recommendation for a buy at this point.
Wong appears in the movie
Last seen assisting Dr. Strange alongside the Avengers in the battle against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, Wong will play a for-now unknown role in this movie. Considering the emphasis that the MCU has been placing on the multiverse, the good magic/dark magic dichotomy, and the role that Dr. Strange will play in the future, it’s no surprise that one of Strange’s associates will show up in this movie. Surely Wong will help guide us across whatever bridge the MCU builds to connect Shang Chi to the rest of the movies and television shows we have seen.
Wong’s first appearance is the same as Dr. Strange in Strange Tales #110, so good luck finding a cheap copy of that. But if you want just a fun Wong book that will only set you back a few bucks, try Marvel Premiere #7, the first cover appearance of Wong. a CGC 9.4 copy sold last year for just $114.
Tim Roth’s Abomination returns in this film as the trailer shows Shang Chi and Wong stepping in to battle the mutated military man in some kind of underground fight club.
The last we SAW Abomination was when he was captured after the events of Incredible Hulk in 2008. But we have HEARD about him more recently, specifically in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where we learn Emil Blonsky was confined to a cryo-cell in Alaska. Somehow before the events of Shang Chi, Abomination has escaped and is making a living with underground fights, or so we are to believe.
This was an interesting and mysterious new wrinkle to this movie when the trailer was released. Where has he been? How does he fit into the Shang Chi story? Does he have an MCU role after this movie? If you want to speculate and invest in Abomination, you’re likely coming in at the peak right now. Before the trailer dropped, Abomination’s first appearance in Tales to Astonish #90 was selling for about $150 for a CGC 8.5. In the one recorded sale since the trailer in this grade, the eBay auction settled at $371. Grades 5.0, 7.5, and 9.2, among others, have all seen similar spikes.
What We Don’t Know About Shang Chi
Where Does All This Fit in the MCU?
The one thing we do know about the timeline of Shang Chi is that it takes place after the events of Endgame. But then again, so did Spider-Man: Far From Home, WandaVision, and Falcon and the Winter Solider. So what does that tell us? Unfortunately, not much as of yet.
Perhaps after the events of the Snap and the Blip, one of either Shang Chi or his father were dusted. If that were the case, it could be something that would compel Shang Chi to return home after he had set up a quieter life in San Francisco. With all of the chaos in the world that we saw in Falcon and the Winter Solider, it might be easy for a terrorist organization to carve out a corner of the globe and profit from that chaos. It’s also not a stretch to think that Shang Chi has some guilt over past sins as part of the organization and wants to return home to destroy it.
Much of this movie takes place in San Francisco. Do we get any cross-pollination with Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne, or Scott Lang? I guess it’s always possible.
The possibilities are endless, but the directors have been clear that this movie helps push Phase 4 forward, instead of spending a lot of time in the past. But as stated above, the common thread of many MCU projects right now is Dr. Strange. Whatever happens here, expect Strange to be in the middle of it.
Are We In the Primary MCU Timeline?
With what has been introduced by Loki and the events of the TVA and Kang, we can never be sure, going forward, that these events take place in the timeline we knew from 2008-2020.
Case in point. Michelle Yeoh plays a character in Shang Chi known as Jiang Nan. She describes it as a character who others seek out for advice about how to protect “the worlds that are around us from the demons that are locked away.” Interesting. Yeoh, however, has also already played a character in the MCU. She was Aleta Ogord in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. That type of continuity confusion is not something Marvel usually screws up, so we need to consider it.
What Do the Physical Ten Rings Do and Where are They From?
Knowing that the original ten rings that Mandarin wore were alien technology, we have a whole universe of possibilities open to us. We should learn their origin, their powers, and how Shang Chi’s father come to possess them, but we don’t know how much power they wield.
We also don’t know who provided the technology so that could either introduce us to a whole new race of beings or confirm some of our suspicions about a group that already exists in the MCU.
Shang Chi Should be an Exciting Step Forward
I personally am very excited about this new phase of Marvel cinema. Martial arts and Kung Fu movies are such a part of the cultural milieu that Marvel incorporating them into their universe seems incredibly wise. Shang Chi himself was born and created in the mid-1970s, a time when Kung Fu movies were a white-hot item among pop culture.
For me, the mystery that exists behind this movie is part of the excitement. I like not exactly knowing where it will go and how it will fit into the larger MCU picture. But one thing is for sure; whatever we see or are introduced to for the first time is going to cause buzz and investment spikes for months to come. I hope you’re ready.
What about you? What are your thoughts on where Shang Chi will take us? Let me know your predictions in the comments!
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