Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Shadow Hero

Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Sonny Liew

I've long been a fan of Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew, and the characters of the Golden Age of comics, so The Shadow Hero, a graphic novel that reinvents the mostly forgotten character The Green Turtle was right up my alley.

The Turtle experienced a very short publishing run in 1944, as a comics artist named Chu Hing tried to give America its first Asian hero, although he was coloured as if he were Caucasian, and his face was never shown.  The title didn't last past a handful of issues, but I suppose he made enough of an impression that Yang and Liew decided to revitalize him.

This is the story of Hank, the American-born son of two Chinese immigrants living in the fictional Pacific city San Incendio.  Unknown to everyone, before coming to America, Hank's father agreed to be the host to the Tortoise Spirit, which lived in his shadow.

After a run-in with some bank robbers and the Anchor of Justice, the local superhero, Hank's mother decides that she wants him to become a hero, which she views as better than becoming a meek grocer, like his father.  He's forced into months of training, but his first foray as a hero is a disaster.  Later, he discovers that his father is being mistreated by the local Tong, and that leads Hank on a series of adventures that will establish him as a true hero.

Yang's writing, from his own cartoons like American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints, through to his work on DC's New Super-Man is always tight, and his love for his characters and his purpose in writing this book is clear.  He both avoids and embraces some of the racial stereotyping so inherent in the Golden Age, and provides us with a lot of depth.

Sonny Liew, who has most recently worked on Doctor Fate at DC, is a very talented artist (I loved his Malinky Robot comic).  There's a real chemistry between him and Yang in this book.

I would be very happy to see or read more of the Green Turtle's adventures.

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