Marvel is officially calling Shang-Chi a “new Avenger.” Back in 2014, actor Simu Liu took to Twitter to address Marvel Studios: “Hey Marvel, great job with Captain America and Thor. Now how about an Asian-American hero?” Seven years later, Liu has his wish, as Shang-Chi – the famed “Master of Kung Fu” in the comics – enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Appropriately enough, he’s played by Liu himself.
Shang-Chi’s debut movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is the first all-new franchise to launch in Phase 4. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, it features some of the best fight choreography in the MCU to date, blending supernatural action with a story exploring a haunted, shattered family dynamic. By the end of the film, Shang-Chi has checked into the MCU, entering a world of gods and monsters that he will never leave. Although Shang-Chi is a standalone film, it goes to great lengths to stress the relationship between its titular hero and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, with fairly liberal use of Benedict Wong’s Wong. Naturally, this has led to intense debate over whether or not Shang-Chi is an Avenger now.
Marvel has published a promotional video, “Tribute,” that appears to answer the question. It establishes a clear narrative throughline with the heroes of the past – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, and Thor – and Shang-Chi himself. Most importantly, it advertises Shang-Chi as “Marvel’s New Avenger.“
From a marketing perspective, it makes sense for Marvel to link Shang-Chi to the Avengers. His brand is certainly not as notable as the likes of Iron Man and Captain America – even in the comics it’s been some time since Shang-Chi starred in an ongoing series rather than a miniseries – and so this promo ties him to bigger, more established brands, and particularly to the Avengers themselves. The trailer focuses on three Avengers whose MCU adventures have come to an end, and the fourth OG Avenger it references is one whose legacy is about to be passed to another; Mjolnir will be wielded by Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in Thor: Love & Thunder. The clear implication is that a new generation of Avengers is coming, and Shang-Chi is one of them. Pleasingly, it looks as though the Avengers of tomorrow will be a lot more diverse than the ones who first stepped into the spotlight in 2012’s The Avengers.
There’s no real evidence whether or not the Avengers still exist in-universe in the MCU right now. “Pray nothing crazy happens again,” a school video declared in Spider-Man: Far From Home, “because are the Avengers even a thing anymore?” But if the Avengers do not currently exist, then this promotional video suggests it’s only a matter of time before they are reformed – and Shang-Chi will be numbered among them.