Marvel Just Set Up a Shocking Hero to Replace Kang as the MCU’s Next Big Bad


  • Shang-Chi could potentially become the next major villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, replacing Kang the Conqueror.
  • The Mandarin’s rings have the power to corrupt anyone who wields them, as shown in The Invincible Iron Man #14.
  • The cinematic version of the rings in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may have the same corrupting influence as the comic versions, potentially setting up Shang-Chi as a corrupted hero in future films.

Warning! Spoilers for The Invincible Iron Man #14 ahead!

Marvel has just opened the door for a surprising candidate to replace Kang the Conqueror as the next Big Bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the Master of Kung Fu himself, Shang-Chi. The firing of Jonathan Majors has upended plans for the MCU’s ongoing Multiverse Saga, where Majors’ Kang was planned to replace Thanos as the franchise’s major villain. There’s also been little news about when fans might expect Simu Liu to make his next big screen appearance as Shang-Chi. But a revelation in a new comic could resolve both scenarios.

The answer arrives in The Invincible Iron Man #14 by writer Gerry Duggan, artist Andrea Di Vito, color artist Bryan Valenza, letter Joe Caramanga and cover artist Kael Ngu. While out in space on a mission from Iron Man, Riri Williams aka Ironheart and the X-Man Forge encounter an enormous space dragon. The dragon is a member of the Makluan race of dragons whose technology created the Mandarin’s rings. It has come to confront Riri about the rings, which are now in Ironheart’s possession.

First believing that the dragon means to attack them, Riri prepares to defend herself and Forge. But the dragon has actually come to warn Riri that she is in danger of being corrupted by the spirits contained within each of the rings.



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The Mandarin’s Rings Can Control Whoever Wields Them

The Mandarin's rings are dangerous

The Mandarin’s rings were introduced along with the Mandarin himself in 1963’s Tales of Suspense #50 by Stan Lee and Don Heck. The weapons were first discovered by the Mandarin aboard a crashed Makluan spaceship. After wearing the rings and gaining enormous power from them, the Mandarin later learned that each ring contains the spirit of an ancient warrior. Eventually, the spirits were able to influence the Mandarin’s mind and convince him to resurrect them. Following the death of the Mandarin, the rings eventually made their way into Riri’s hands. She was convinced that the rings could be used for noble purposes, though Tony Stark remained skeptical.

This issue reveals that, much like the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings, the Mandarin’s rings are powerful but dangerous, capable of corrupting anyone who wields them. “You have ten curses upon you,” the dragon cautions Ironheart. Even those with the best intentions will find themselves compromised, and the only way to avoid this fate is to get rid of them. This warning proves to be true later in the issue, when Riri and Forge find themselves in a fight against some treacherous dwarves. Ironheart nearly uses the rings to banish the dwarves to the Void before Forge talks her down. Convincing her that she doesn’t want to live with the kind of regret that can come from using the rings, Forge helps her send them out into space, where they will be separated.

The MCU’s Shang-Chi Could Be Corrupted By His Rings

Riri Williams uses the Mandarin's rings

The cinematic version of the rings appear in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where it’s revealed that the Mandarin discovered them in ancient times. By the end of the film, the rings are in Shang-Chi’s possession and are sending a signal out into space. This hints that a future film could introduce the Makluans and potentially even reveal the spirits within the rings. Given this new revelation, it’s possible that the Ten Rings on film will have the same corrupting influence as the comic versions.

Although Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings performed well at the box office and received good reviews, there hasn’t been much news of when production will begin on a sequel. The character is expected to appear in the next two Avengers movies, but Simu Liu teased last year that Shang-Chi could return to the MCU “sooner than you think.” Now that Marvel has revealed the true nature of the rings, perhaps they could have a similar corrupting influence on Shang-Chi, twisting the beloved hero into a villain worthy of taking over for Kang the Conqueror as the new big threat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Invincible Iron Man #14 is available now from Marvel Comics.

The Invincible Iron Man #14 (2024)

Invincible Iron Man 14 cover

  • Writer: Gerry Duggan
  • Artist: Andrea Di Vito
  • Colorist: Bryan Valenza
  • Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga
  • Cover Artist: Kael Ngu