Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the second Marvel Cinematic Universe film to hit theaters in 2021. And calling it a success would certainly be an understatement. A superb film, it follows the titular character as he leaps into the role of a hero and an Avenger. He made that transition by stopping an unspeakable evil from another dimension from destroying everything.
A huge part of that story, and the MCU in general, was the Ten Rings. These mysterious weapons were wielded by Shang-Chi’s father for more than a thousand years. Now, they belong to him. While the MCU version of the Ten Rings is powerful, they are also incredibly different from the comic book versions they’re loosely based on. That doesn’t make them any less compelling, though.
The Ten Rings in the MCU
As long as there has been an MCU, the Ten Rings have been lurking in the background. The terrorist organization named after them debuted alongside Tony Stark and Nick Fury in 2008’s Iron Man. It was responsible for the incident that caused Stark to build his very first suit of armor. But they wouldn’t appear again until 2013’s Iron Man 3. Aldrich Killian and AIM positioned actor Trevor Slattery as a fake Mandarin in charge of the Ten Rings to further their own goals.
Slattery appeared again in the 2014 MCU short film, “All Hail the King.” It revealed that the real leader of the Ten Rings was alive and well, and none too happy with Trevor’s performance. Shang-Chi featured the debut of Xu Wenwu, the real leader of the Ten Rings. It also featured the surprise return of Slattery, who Xu Wenwu had taken pity on. But the MCU history of the Ten Rings came as a surprise to many fans watching Shang-Chi.
No one knows where Xu found the Ten Rings. What is known is that they essentially made him immortal. They also made him incredibly powerful, capable of taking on entire armies single-handedly. These weapons are literally ten rings that Xu wore on each arm, five apiece. The powers they gave him were diverse, potent, and inexplicable. Even Wong, Carol Danvers, and Bruce Banner couldn’t figure out what they are. They may need Reed Richards’s help.
The Ten Rings in Marvel Comics
First and foremost, it’s important to note that what happens in the MCU does not have to be the same as the comics. Xu Wenwu is an MCU creation and an infinitely better character than Shang-Chi’s original comic book father. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the MCU Ten Rings and the Marvel Comics Ten Rings could not be more different, including who owned them.
In the comics, the man with the jewelry was the Mandarin. This was the name Trevor Slattery was given when he essentially impersonated Xu in the MCU. But the comic book Mandarin was a powerful warrior and criminal who was Iron Man’s greatest enemy for many years. And he did in fact wield Ten Rings. In this case, they were ten actual rings that he wore on each finger and thumb.
The Mandarin quite literally found them in a downed alien starship. He mastered the species’ advanced science as well as the different power each ring had. One created ice blasts while another created heat blasts. The Matter Rearranger ring may have been the most impressive of them all. These rings made him more than a match for the likes of Iron Man as well as the various other Marvel heroes he would face over the years.
Without question, the differences between the MCU Ten Rings and the comic book Ten Rings are incredibly stark. But Xu Wenwu’s rings certainly made a lot more sense for the movie and the overall MCU. What will be interesting is how they fit into the larger story. These artifacts are likely more powerful and more important than even Xu Wenwu was aware of, and may even factor into the larger MCU Multiverse in some fashion.