Who Is Wu Ao-Shi? Iron Fist's Chi Archer, Explained
Discover the legend of the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay.
The Marvel Universe is home to many archers, but none of them are quite like Wu Ao-Shi.
In Alyssa Wong, Michael Yg, and Sean Chen’s IRON FIST #2, K’un-Lun’s latest defender Lin Lie learned about the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, one of the only women in history to become the Iron Fist. Lin’s friend Mei Min used Wu Ao-Shi’s memory to teach him a lesson about his own journey, explaining how women were forbidden from participating in the trials – and then from fighting altogether – even after Wu Ao-Shi’s incredible tenure as the Iron Fist: “Just because something is traditional doesn’t mean it’s good… but times change, and so do we.”
Ultimately, Wu Ao-Shi’s story inspired Lin to embrace his role as the Iron Fist by learning how to use his new chi abilities in a way that best suited him, instead of trying to fit the mold of all those who came before him. But Wu Ao-Shi’s Marvel history runs beyond the legend Mei tells Lin in IRON FIST #2.
The Making of a Myth
In fact, Wu Ao-Shi made her Marvel debut 15 years ago in Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s IMMORTAL IRON FIST #2, which released in 2007. Although she appeared only in the issue’s three opening pages, she left a fiery impression by taking down an entire fleet of pirate ships in Pinghai Bay using only her fists and her bow and arrow.
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #4 further clarified Wu Ao-Shi’s place in Iron Fist history, as well as her unique abilities. While all Iron Fists can channel the chi of Shou-Lao the Undying into their fists, making their hand-to-hand combat skills virtually unmatched, Wu Ao-Shi could do much more than that.
Wu Ao-Shi had the ability to extend that chi beyond herself and into her go-to weapon: her bow and arrow. So, when she fired her arrows, they carried Shou-Lao’s chi and destroyed anything in their path. As former Iron Fist Orson Randall explained to his successor Danny Rand, “It was written that her enemies fell as if lightning from God had destroyed them.”
But it’s IMMORTAL IRON FIST #7 (featuring guest artist Travel Foreman) that sheds the most light on this Wu Ao-Shi and her amazing adventures as the Iron Fist. Dedicated solely to her story, the issue covers her whole life, from her small beginnings to her ascent as the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay.
Wu Ao-Shi started out on the streets of K’un-Lun as little more than “a beggar girl,” as Yu-Ti described in IRON FIST #2. However, one fateful altercation in the market attracted the attention of Lei Kung the Thunderer. After she was caught stealing cherries from a street vendor, he punished her by flogging her to publicly humiliate her. Although her hands were bound, she retaliated by leaping forward and smashing the man’s face with her fists as the Thunderer looked on. He admired her spirit and potential and took her under his wing from that moment forward.
The Thunderer raised her and, during that time, taught her many harsh lessons – not just about combat, but about life. He impressed upon her that life wasn’t fair, making sure she understood that “life does not care if I thrive or starve.” While she never regretted her decision to go with the Thunderer that day in the market, she found herself pulled in another direction when she met the man who would become her husband.
That day, Wu Ao-Shi sat on the lip of a fountain eating plain rice when a fisherman approached her and offered her a fish simply because she still looked hungry. As the story goes, “It was the first thing she had ever been given, and a fine start to their lives together.”
The fisherman knew they were destined to be together forever when he discovered two rings made of pure silver inside of a fish he caught. He immediately brought the rings home to Wu Ao-Shi and asked her to be his bride. She agreed without hesitation.
However, despite their happiness in that moment, it was not the end of their journey. After all, she was still on the path to becoming the Iron Fist, an ambition he never quite understood or appreciated. The idea of her facing Shou-Lao the Undying frightened him. He knew his love would put herself in mortal peril that day and he couldn’t bear to see her hurt – or, worse, killed – in an attempt to become the Iron Fist.
Nevertheless, Wu Ao-Shi went on to face Shou-Lao. Many K’un-Lun citizens came to watch that day, and not everyone hoped she would succeed. Despite his worry, the fisherman also attended. Wu Ao-Shi was, of course, successful in her trial and returned with the Iron Fist after she defeated Shou-Lao faster than anyone before her.
Love and Duty
After she returned home, Wu Ao-Shi blessed their wedding rings with Shou-Lao’s chi, so that they glowed when they were near each other, but the fisherman’s doubts remained. Eventually, he decided he couldn’t bear to watch her risk her life anymore and left her in the dead of night while she was asleep. He headed to the world of men, finding refuge in Pingham Bay, where he experienced some peace and prosperity – for a time.
But Wu Ao-Shi “found this choice unacceptable.” As a result, she told the Thunderer about her decision to follow the fisherman into the world of men. The Thunderer was furious, believing that Wu Ao-Shi had chosen love over duty. However, Wu Ao-Shi saw no difference between them; love and duty were one and the same.
When she set out into the world of men, Wu Ao-Shi found her path was not as easy as her husband’s, but she battled the elements as efficiently as she fought men. She quickly discovered that the world of men relied on currency for such essentials as eating, so she turned her skillset into a career as hired muscle.
For a time, Wu Ao-Shi found great success beating people up for money. As she traveled in search of her husband, her legend grew, spreading across the land from village to village. Her husband, too, enjoyed the fruits of his labors – until Wokou pirates arrived in Pinghai Bay and enslaved the people living there.
The Legend of the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay
In 1545, Wu Ao-Shi caught word of what was happening in Pinghai Bay. Believing she could get paid handsomely for her services, she made her way there and began her hunt for the Pirate King. She found him in bed with his Pirate Harem and soon discovered they were skilled combatants themselves. Between the Pirate Harem and the Pirate King’s men, who fought dirty, Wu Ao-Shi was overwhelmed and taken prisoner.
As Wu Ao-Shi was being led through the streets, the fisherman happened to be walking by and noticed his ring begin to glow, indicating she was near. He soon discovered the Pirate King’s plans for her: she would be chained to the cliffs as his fleet sailed away, so that her bones would serve as a warning to others.
The fisherman would not stand for that. He went to the cliffs and offered her guards some fish he had caught as dinner. However, he poisoned the fish, so the unsuspecting guards quickly perished. Not one to mince words, she immediately demanded he let her down so she could find a boat and pursue the pirates.
The fisherman offered Wu Ao-Shi his boat, but on one condition: she would use it to leave Pinghai Bay and never return. She agreed to these terms, then promptly disregarded them, sailing right for her enemies. What followed was the battle for Pinghai Bay, where she singlehandedly defeated an entire pirate fleet with her single boat, her fists and her bow and arrow.
In a matter of hours, Wu Ao-Shi’s enemies fell “as if lightning from God had destroyed them.” She leapt from her ship to their, beat up the pirates and destroyed their ship before returning to her own. Although they eventually managed to set her boat on fire, it was too late; she had drawn the battle inland, making it impossible for them to escape. Pinghai Bay was hers.
Happily Ever After
While Wu Ao-Shi was away battling pirates, the fisherman had a realization about her and his love for her. He decided to accept all parts of her, for “this was simply how it must be.” So, after she returned from her adventure, they finally got their happily ever after. Although the rest of her days weren’t long, she ruled over Pinghai Bay “with benevolence, protecting her people from tyranny and oppression.”
Wu Ao-Shi was the last woman to carry the Iron Fist.
The Legend Lives On
Indeed, Wu Ao-Shi’s exploits were so legendary that director Jun Shan made a film was made about her life titled Pinghai Bay. Shan was later kidnapped by the Mandarin, but that’s a story best left told in the pages of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL #1.
To read more about Wu Ao-Shi, check out IMMORTAL IRON FIST by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja. For Lin Lie’s continuing adventures, read IRON FIST by Alyssa Wong, Michael Yg, and Sean Chen.
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