“Look at this.” I showed page twenty-nine of The Shadow Hero to my daughter, who has been taking a comics and cartooning class. “You see how your eye flows around the page, the action and reaction shots branch out in all direction, yet clear storytelling and speech bubbles properly placed–brilliant comic montage! And check out this completely different take on page 105, artistically reflective of the spinning barrel of a gun as the panels…”
I’m not an artist, but wow, do I appreciate a good one. First Second has put out a superhero graphic novel with ties to the history of comics, racism, and the duality of first generation Americans, in an entertaining format that young YA and up will enjoy.
Gene Luen Yang, creator of award winning American Born Chinese, and Sonny Liew, who recently did a graphic adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, have come together to introduce The Shadow Hero. It is the origin story for a long-forgotten comic superhero from the 1940s: The Green Turtle. As a history geek, I was curious to hear there was an Asian-American comic so long ago, since mainstream comics are amazingly white and male. Yang explains that in 1944, Blazing Comics asked Chu Hing to create an original superhero for them. Hing came up with The Green Turtle, but not everything is clear about this superhero during his brief run.
Yang and Liew have filled in the past with The Shadow Hero. Yang is a powerhouse in the graphic novel world, and does not disappoint. The story takes place in West Coast Chinatown during the early twentieth century. Hank is a young, handsome, nice guy, whose only goal in life is to be just like his father: an honest grocer. But then his mother decides her son should become a superhero, and since his father has an ancient Chinese spirit residing in his shadow, fate leads Hank to become more than he had planned.
Although Hank is our hero, his mother, Hua, is my favorite character. Starting with her resignation of the drabness of American life, to her being flattered that another superhero was checking out her “bosom” (really a hidden pork bun), to her inability to keep her son’s dual identity a secret, this lady made me laugh.
Speaking of women, although there is a kick-ass, sexy romantic interest here, she isn’t the only girl around. Not only is the mother a big role, but there are two other dangerous women introduced. Yay!
The plot is fast-paced, the dialogue true, and the artwork brings a likable personality to the world. Besides page 29, there is creative use of the comic format throughout, especially during the action scenes. I really liked the ending (defeat by the clever use of words!), and hope there is more to come.
The Shadow Hero comes out in July. GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.