Out of all the recent Marvel Studios projects given to audiences in the last few years, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ranks fairly high for most fans. Despite that, the hero's return to the MCU still remains up in the air.
It's assumed he'll be getting a proper sequel at some point, though the project isn't yet officially confirmed by Marvel Studios themselves. Simu Liu, however, recently stated that the second film was originally coming out after Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, but those plans seem to be in flux.
Shang-Chi and the Thunderbolts?
Written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, the new Thunderbolts comics will include a group made up of Yelena Belova (White Widow), Black Widow, Sharon Carter, Red Guardian, U.S. Agent, and Shang-Chi. Then gang will even be under the command of both Bucky Barnes and Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine:
"The new THUNDERBOLTS lineup includes Black Widow, Sharon Carter AKA Destroyer, White Widow, Red Guardian, U.S. Agent, and Shang-Chi. Allied together under the command of Bucky and the one and only Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, readers can expect high-stakes missions in each issue as this crew sets out to dish out long-overdue justice throughout the Marvel Universe!"
The story will see Bucky and his team going after the establishment, aka, "the people no one else is willing or able to take down." This includes targets such as Red Skull, Kingpin, and even Doctor Doom.
Marvel is known to launch comic book series, events, or character changes in an effort to synergize with the MCU. Some of the biggest examples of this include retconning Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver into no longer being mutant, the portrayal of the Guardians being more in line with James Gunn's take on the team, and the introduction of a new Wasp, Nadia Pym, to align with Hope Van Dyne's introduction onscreen.
With that in mind, could Shang-Chi's participation here signal his inclusion in Phase 5's Thunderbolts? Currently, the film's roster includes Red Guardian, Yelena Belova, Bucky Barnes, US Agent, and Ghost—but there's nothing saying there isn't room for more friends.
Will Simu Liu Join the MCU's Band of Misfits?
With the positive reception to Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi, and how quickly he met Wong, it’s hard to believe there don’t seem to be any obvious upcoming appearances for the character.
Thinking in terms of MCU continuity, Thunderbolts doesn’t seem like the most organic place for the character. After all, he’s not an outcast with a sketchy track record like everyone else—he’s about as straight and narrow as heroes come.
Given that, maybe this comic inclusion is simply a coincidence.
The character does have a history with shady secret organizations, however. For a long while, he did work as a member of MI-6, but that option is another one which doesn’t feel natural to his MCU counterpart.
So besides his eventual sequel, what project might fit the character in next?
Brave New World releases in theaters on July 26, 2024, while Thunderbolts is expected to conclude Phase 5 on December 20, 2024.