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The Untold Truth Of Marvel's Xialing

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is fast arriving, and as the Marvel Cinematic Universe faithfuls stretch their legs in order to prepare for the high-kicking premiere on September 3, it's a good time to brush up on some of the major players in this comparatively little-known corner of the Marvel universe. Because of the sheer visual feast the MCU martial arts epic's trailer game has been so far, it's easy to focus entirely on Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the Mandarin (Tony Leung), the epic fight scenes, dragons, the unexpected return of the Abomination (Tim Roth), and other amazing revelations — with Shang-Chi's relationship with his friend Katy (Awkwafina) bringing warmth and levity in the mix. 

However, Katy isn't Shang-Chi's only companion on his quest to confront his past and find his place in life. Meng'er Zhang portrays Xialing, Shang-Chi's equally combat-ready sister, who appears multiple times in the trailers, both accompanying his brother and Katy in their adventures ... and, it appears, fighting Shang-Chi in a cage match. In other words, Xialing is clearly a force to be reckoned with — but who, exactly, is she in the Marvel comics universe, and how might that background reflect on her role in the MCU? Let's take a look at the untold truth of Marvel's Xialing.  

Xialing is a combination of Shang-Chi's sisters from the comics

Shang-Chi's familial relationships are a bit of a mess in the comics, and while "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" makes it clear that the family continues to be unlikely to gather together for a nice Sunday dinner, the movie has understandably streamlined some of the more convoluted parts of the equation. For instance, the history of The Mandarin is extremely complex in the comics, even without the MCU's inclusion of the copycat Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley). It's also worth noting that in the comics, Shang-Chi's father isn't the Mandarin at all, but a sorcerer called Zheng Zu, aka Fu Manchu. As such, it's no surprise that the "Shang-Chi" movie opts to go with a fresh take on Shang-Chi's dad in Tony Leung's Wenwu, who carries the Mandarin mantle, but is essentially a brand new character.  

The story of Xialing is somewhat similar, though the reason for the simplification is likely rather different. Though Meng'er Zhang's character doesn't seem to have a direct counterpart in the Marvel comics universe — at least yet — this may have something to do with the simple fact that the comics version of Shang-Chi has no less than five sisters. This, of course, is a ton of characters to introduce in a movie that's already tasked with a ton of world-building, so it's hardly a surprise that the powers that be opted to go with a single sister character that might carry some of the comic book versions' characteristics, but none of the potential plot baggage. 

Which version of Shang-Chi's comics sisters does Xialing resemble the most?

So, is Xialing an entirely original MCU character, or does she bear a particular resemblance to one or more of Shang-Chi's sisters in the comics? As befits her general family relationships, the answer is: It's probably pretty complicated. The half-Wakandan Kwai Far is probably out of the equation for now, unless Xialing turns out to be the MCU's link between Shang-Chi and the "Black Panther" movies. Zheng Zhilan is a mutant who resides in Ireland and weaponizes her sonic abilities with a flute, which doesn't really seem like the direction the movie intends to take with Xialing. The powerful and smart Sister Hammer doesn't bear much physical resemblace to Xialing, but then again, her intellect and fighting prowess might well turn out to be an influence in her characterization. 

On the other hand, there's Zheng Bao Yu, whose arc as a rebellious daughter of Zheng Zu might fit Xialing rather well. Granted, the comic book character's personality doesn't seem to line up with the movie's depiction of Shang-Chi's sister, seeing as Zhen Bao Yu is a seductive supervillain (and occasional MI6 agent) known as the Cursed Lotus, and tends to rely on her intelligent and the occasional hypnotic gadget rather than her combat abilities. This brings us to the other likely inspiration for Xianling, Sister Dagger. This character, whose real name is Esme, is less historically connected to his father than Zhen Bao Yu, but she's a skilled fighter who boasts a rock-solid track record of going on adventures with her brother, even though their relationship is rather strained at first. 

While there's no question that Xialing will turn out to be her own character, and may very well be on the course to become the definitive take on Shang-Chi's siblings, our money says that what inspiration the character does draw from the comic book sisters comes largely from Esme and Zheng Bao Yu. You can see for yourself whether that's correct when "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" drops on September 3.