Today’s comparison is going to focus on two great fighters that appear in Marvel’s fictional universe. One of them is Shang-Chi, Marvel’s most skilled martial artist, while the other is Captain America, Marvel’s most skilled soldier. With both characters having a long comic book tradition, it seems natural for us to explore which of these two great hand-to-hand fighters would win in a direct clash. Enjoy!
In a recent comic book, Shang-Chi managed to defeat Captain America, but we’re not certain that he would be able to do it each time they clashed. Captain America is a really skilled fighter capable of handling even the best of martial artists and that is why we decided to put this one down as a draw.
Our comparison is going to be divided into three sections. The first is going to bring an overview of the two characters, after which we are going to compare their powers, including their signature weapons. Finally, we’re going to bring you a detailed analysis of the two characters to determine which one would win in a direct clash.
Shang-Chi and his powers
Shang-Chi, also known as the Master of Kung Fu, is a superhero appearing in stories published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer Steve Englehart and artists Al Milgrom and Jim Starlin, the fictional character first appeared in the Special Marvel Edition #15 comic book in 1973.
Shang-Chi was born in the Hunan province of China. He is the son of Fu Manchu, an international criminal. From an early age, he was trained in Chinese martial arts in order to, when he comes of age, assassinate an enemy of his father but, discovering that his progenitor is a powerful criminal, he rebels against his destiny.
He fights Midnight Sun and allies himself with Black Jack Tarr, with whom he confronts his father’s organization. Later, he becomes a secret agent working for MI-6, the United Kingdom’s intelligence service, during which he travels to New York and meets the costumed hero Spider-Man.
He later faces off against his own sister, Fah Lo Suee, then Razor Fist and the duo Mordillo and Brynocki. He then befriends the Cat (Shen Kuei) and Iron Fist (Danny Rand), with whom he shares a passion for martial arts. He also confronts Shockwave before leaving MI-6.
Opting for an independent life, he becomes an adventurer. But this job still brings him closer to the world of superheroes; he becomes the ally of the Thing. He fights HYDRA, then Zaran, Boomerang, etc. He soon reunites with his friends Sir Denis Nayland Smith, Tarr, Clive Reston, and his childhood sweetheart Leiko Wu. Together, they form “Freelance Restorations Limited”, a secret agency based in Scotland.
It was during this period that he faced his father for the last time in a duel to the death, from which he emerged victorious. A few years later, he left the organization and went back to China as a simple fisherman.
Shang-Chi made his comeback a few years later, in the Heroes for Hire series. There, he begins a relationship with Maria Vasquez (Tarantula). He’s the one who kills his teammate Humbug, controlled by an insectoid race that escaped from the Hulk’s ship upon his return to Earth.
Traumatized by this cold-blooded murder, he leaves the team. Shang-Chi, still linked to the British secret service, reluctantly helps Peter Wisdom to dismantle a criminal network of mystical origin.
Captain America and his powers
Captain America, whose real name is Steven Grant “Steve” Rogers, is a fictional comic book character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941 for Timely Comics, which later became Marvel Comics. Initially created as a propaganda character during the Second World War, “Cap” was immediately a great success (the first issue of the series sold almost a million copies and the following ones remained on these levels, surpassing magazines such as Time) and became the publisher’s most popular character.
His popularity dropped after the war, which led to his in-universe disappearance for several years, until he was reinvented as a proper superhero, without any propaganda elements.
During the Second World War, the young Steve Rogers wanted to enlist to serve his homeland in war. Discarded on the draft visit due to his frail physique, he was allowed to participate in a secret experiment called “Project: Rebirth”, aimed at creating an army of super soldiers. Through a chemical preparation made by Dr. Abraham Erskine, Rogers’ physical and mental condition was enormously developed.
The death of the inventor of the trial, killed by an infiltrated Nazi spy, meant that Steve Rogers remained the only person to take advantage of the benefits of the super soldier serum, thus becoming a unique specimen. Enlisted for secret missions beyond enemy lines, the meek Steve Rogers thus became Captain America, wearing a stars and stripes costume that explicitly resembled the American flag.
Initially, he was provided with a triangular-rectangle shield always in theme with his uniform, but later he replaced it with a circular one, practically indestructible, given to him by President Roosevelt himself. Steve learned to use the shield as a defense and attack weapon, which soon became the symbol of the hero all over the world.
As a symbol to counter the rise of the Hitler Youth, the government gave him a young “sidekick” named James Buchanan Barnes, better known as Bucky. Towards the end of the war, Cap and Bucky travel to Great Britain to stop Baron Zemo, a Nazi scientist who is there with the task of bombing London by a V2; the two heroes are unable to prevent it from taking off but launch in pursuit: the plane explodes while it was flying over the English Channel, and Cap crashes into the sea trying to divert its course, while Bucky dies in the explosion.
In the sixties Steve Rogers comes back to life thanks to the involuntary help of Namor who, still furious with the Avengers after the defeat suffered by allying with the Hulk, goes to the Arctic Ocean, where he finds Eskimos bowing in front of a block of ice, believing it to be a totem pole.
Namor, who considers the gesture outrageous, becomes furious and throws the iceberg away. The block begins to thaw under the effect of the hot currents, revealing a man inside in a state of suspended animation.
Giant-Man manages to grab the man and drag him into the Avengers submarine, where they identify him as Captain America, surviving thanks to the super soldier’s serum, which had prevented the crystallization of organic fluids. Steve Rogers thus becomes part of the group of heroes, of which he becomes one of the recognized leaders.
Comparing the powers of Shang-Chi and Captain America
Our second section will contain a comparison of the two characters’ powers. It won’t be a direct comparison as much as a listing of their powers abilities, which is going to serve as a basis for our analysis in section three of our article. Now, let us begin.
Shang-Chi is an expert in Chinese martial arts and possesses a high skill in hand-to-hand combat, even if he is not at the level of Iron Fist. His physical abilities are at the pinnacle of human perfection and he is defined by some as one of the greatest bare-handed fighters and kung-fu experts alive.
Much of his physical abilities seem to come from his mastery of chi (氣), which often allows him to overcome the physical limitations of a normal athlete. His reflexes are so developed that he can even dodge bullets from machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as deflect pistol shots with his bracelets.
He is also well versed in espionage, by virtue of the time spent working with MI6. He can sense the presence of an individual only by sensing his chi. Later, he will learn the power of Kitty Pryde’s intangibility and develop a technique that will allow him to turn his opponents into stone. Furthermore, he can hit his opponent in so-called “pressure points” that allow him to paralyze, or even kill them.
Shang-Chi is also highly trained in the arts of concentration and meditation and is an expert in the use of sidearms such as swords, kali sticks, nunchaku, sai, and shuriken. Among other things, Tony Stark gave him bracelets that allowed him to better channel his chi, thus increasing his strength.
As far as Captain America is concerned, firstly, his battle experience and training make him an expert tactician and an excellent field commander, as his teammates frequently respect his orders in battle. Rogers’ senses and reflexes are remarkably keen. He has mixed Aikido, Boxing, Judo, Karate, Jujutsu, Kickboxing, and gymnastics in his own unique fighting style and is a master of multiple martial arts.
Years of practice with his nearly indestructible shield allow him to aim and throw it with near-unerring precision. His ability with his shield is such that he can attack multiple targets in succession with a single throw or even trigger a boomerang, such as a return of a throw to attack an enemy from behind. Instead, other skilled combatants regard him as one of the best melee combatants in the Marvel Universe, limited only by his human physique.
Although the super soldier’s serum is an important part of his strength, Rogers has shown himself still capable enough against stronger opponents, even when the serum has been deactivated reverting him to his pre-Captain America physique.
Finally, since both are Marvel characters, we can consult their official numbers, as per the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z (2010):
It seems, from what we can deduce from their basic powers and abilities, that these two are, more or less, on equal terms, right? Let us test that in our next section.
Shang-Chi vs Captain America: Who would win?
And now for the most important and interesting section of our article – the analysis. Here, we are going to use what we have found out about these two characters and analyze how all these facts would (or would not) help them in a fight against each other. Let us continue.
A lot of the information we base our analysis on comes from the recent Shang-Chi #2 (2021), where Shang-Chi and Captain America actually clashed over a Cosmic Cube that was up for auction. When one looks at their powers and abilities without knowing the outcome of this battle, one would think that the match would either end in a draw or with a narrow victory for Captain America, as the numbers lean slightly in his favor.
But, as it turns out, the comics don’t think so. In the afore mentioned comic book, Shang-Chi actually fought Captain America and – won! Shang-Chi’s mastery of martial arts seemed enough for him to defeat the First Avenger and it seems that their most recent clash (honestly, we haven’t been able to find if they clashed earlier) proved that the martial artists is better than the soldier. And while that does make sense, we wouldn’t completely agree.
Namely, Shang-Chi is a master martial artists, but Captain America is a master soldier with a lot of experience and he is one of the best hand-to-hand fighters you can find. This is why we think that Shang-Chi’s victory was plot relevant and not an objective reflection of his supposed superiority. In all honesty, we think that out of ten fights, both of them would win five because they’re so much alike in almost all fields. This is why we have to call this one a draw.