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by yo go re

You wish your siblings were this cool.

When her estranged brother Shang-Chi suddenly shows up in her life, Xialing must choose between the solitary life she's created for herself or join her brother in the fight against the Ten Rings.

As you may know, Marvel's Shang-Chi began (fictional) life as the son of Fu Manchu, Marvel having been licensing the character from the Sax Rohmer estate at the time. Apparently their "Little Sambo" license had run out and they needed something equally racist to fill the slot. Anyway, Fu Machu already had at least one child from the original novels, a daughter introduced in 1917's The Si-Fan Mysteries. That daughter, Fah Lo Suee, appeared in the comics regularly, though in later years she's been renamed to Zheng Bao Yu. The movie is keeping the idea of a sister, but creating its own name for her just in case.

Xialing is played by Meng'er Zhang, who has apparently never been in anything else. Her haircut, on the other hand, has already played Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man and Rosalind Price on Agents of SHIELD. Who at Marvel Studios is so determined to make this "fetch" of a haircut happen? Did they order a surplus of bad bob-cut wigs, and they need to find ways to use them?

The costume here, with the black pants and pale gray shirt with intricate black patterns on it, makes her look like another of Shang-Chi's half-siblings, Esme. Even the haircut is similar! Known as "Sister Dagger," she's a champion of the House of the Deadly Dagger (a group introduced in the 2020 Shang-Chi book). Does this mean we'll see more the Five Weapons Society in the movie? Or is it just that Esme has a much, much better design than Zheng Bao Yu does. Judging by the packaging art, the thin black lines near her collarbones should be bunched closer together, almost forming solid black patches, but that doesn't make this toy look any less impressive.

Xialing has as much articulation as you expect from Marvel Legends, moving at the wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, chest, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. The head is one of those barbell joints, which seem to work a lot better on these figures than then ever have on other companies' attempts, and the chest is a balljoint - that's why we don't have both a chest and a waist, because it's already taking care of both ranges of motion. The pegs that go into the feet feel a little flimsy, like you're going to rip her feet off when you try to use the ankle hinge.

The figure has flat "chopping" hands in the package, but you can switch those for fists, a right hand designed to hold her coiled rope dart weapon, and two hands that are probably supposed to show a crane beak strike (all the fingertips together to form a stronger point of impact), but can also be used to make her look Italian. Scusi, bobba de boopy? Beebidy bobidy babidy babidy! Popa de papa! Chedo prasto pienyo! Adaptunia beepie babi! Bapi bopa!

Despite the entirely new and likely unreusable mold, Xialing comes with the largest part of this series' Mr. Hyde Build-A-Figure: the chest.

Will Xialing really be fighting against the Ten Rings, or trying to take it over? There's no question she'll join Shang-Chi for at least part of the time, or they wouldn't have bothered making a toy of her, so we have to instead speculate about other mysteries. So post-credits scene prediction: Brother Sabre will show up to tell Xialing that with their father dead, Sister Hammer has enlisted Brother Staff's help to usurp control of the Five Weapons Society, and now they need to convince Shang-Chi to accept the leadership of the House of the Deadly Hand to confront her.

-- 05/20/21

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