WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. From new characters introduced to new corners of the universe being revealed, Shang-Chi has expanded the story in a multitude of ways. As this movie looks forward to the future, it also grows the depth of the history of the MCU.
When the title was first revealed by Marvel Studios leader Kevin Feige in 2019, audiences knew this movie was going to dive into one of the MCU's longest-running organizations. The Ten Rings was presented in Iron Man as a terrorist organization that was responsible for kidnappings Tony Stark. The name was then later used as a scare tactic by Aldrich Killian, with puppet Trevor Slattery as the leader and face of this group posing as The Mandarin.
The twist of Iron Man 3 left many fans uneasy with the treatment of The Mandarin, a legendary Iron Man villain. This concern was addressed almost immediately in a DVD special one-shot titled All Hail The King. This followed Slattery's time in prison and a planned escape of the former fake terrorist. This escape was constructed by "the real Mandarin", or the actual leader of the Ten Rings.
This one-shot is now available to watch on Disney+ and is highly recommended for anyone who has not yet seen Shang-Chi.
This short opens the door for "The Real Mandarin" to be a living and present threat in the MCU. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings promised to address this aspect of the MCU with Shang-Chi's father, Wenwu. And while there is some incredible history behind the Ten Rings Organization, Wenwu also confirmed himself to be a classic Marvel villain, but not the one everyone expected.
Who is Wenwu?
Many expected Tony Leung's Wenwu to reveal himself as the real Mandarin in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. As Shang-Chi's father and wielder of the all-powerful Ten Rings, Wenwu was primed to satisfy the hunger to see the classic comic book villain brought to life in true Mandarin fashion.
Not only did Wenwu mock the titling of "The Mandarin" used by Aldrich Killian to cripple the American government, he also lists other titles he has gone by — one of which being "Master Khan."
Master Khan is a Marvel Comics villain most famously opposing characters like Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Doctor Strange. He is a lower-tier Marvel antagonist within the panels of comics but has some serious ties to the situation surrounding Shang-Chi - most of which may be his eerily similar appearance to Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3 when the estranged actor was portraying an appropriated version of Wenwu.
Pulling from Marvel Comics Lore
While many expected Wenwu to claim his title as one of the most revered Eastern comic book villains in history, the MCU took another approach and leaned into the joke/twist that was Trevor Slattery.
This was an unexpected move but one that worked out for the best due to Slattery's ability to continue his jester role in this film. Everyone seems to be extremely happy that Ben Kingsley returned and has maybe even made up for some concerns of the past.
But not only did Wenwu turn down the title of Mandarin, he confirmed he is actually in fact a representation of Master Khan. This is the perfect lower-level villain title to tag on to the MCU's latest of amazing antagonists.
Wenwu felt lived in and intimidating almost immediately in this film. The idea that he would have so many names and monikers over the years makes a ton of sense.
Specifically using Master Khan is interesting for a couple of reasons; the first of which is Khan's comic background with Iron Fist. Iron Fist is famously the other martial arts master in the Avengers circle opposite of Shang-Chi. In fact, many speculate that if the Netflix Marvel shows had never existed, this may have been an Iron Fist movie. This is a great way to adapt a classic Iron Fist character before introducing him in the MCU.
Another point to note is that Master Khan shares a striking resemblance to "The Mandarin" character from Iron Man 3. Ben Kingsley famously dominated his scenes with a captivating voice and an eerily scary presence. The ponytail, robes, and angry look all point to Slattery taking inspiration from Master Khan from the comics. This adds to the lore by suggesting that Killian and Slattery were doing their best to impersonate Wenwu, but missed the mark with the name.
This is hardly the first time the MCU has used one character to pay tribute to comic lore. Most recently, Sylvie from the Loki series was a combination of three different characters with similar qualities. But making Wenwu a combination of some of the most feared villains in the panels of Marvel Comics history? That is one exciting way to build him up as a top-tier foil.