The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew
Released July 15, 2014.
The Green Turtle first appeared in comics in the 1940s, the Golden Age of Comics, for a short run. He was the first Asian-American super hero. Now he has been given a back story by acclaimed graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang. Hank was the son of a Chinese immigrants. His father was a grocer, who also carried within him a turtle spirit unbeknownst to his wife and son. His mother was a cleaner of rich people’s homes. Hank was a normal kid who grew into a normal young adult, until his mother though being a super hero would be the best career path for Hank. She sewed him a costume, tried to get him special powers through a variety of techniques, and then had him train in fighting with someone. But it took Hank awhile to find his super hero mojo, perhaps it was finding a man who rules China Town with an iron and greedy fist or perhaps it was vengeance. Whichever it was, Hank grew to become the Green Turtle.
This is one graphic novel that does not take itself too seriously, making for great reading. Fans of comic books will love the irreverent humor here that plays up the stereotypical origin stories of most super heroes. That is matched with a clear respect for immigrants, the difficult choices they have to make, and the desperate need at times for a hero to save them. It makes for a book that dances the line between drama and humor skillfully and to great effect.
Liew’s art has a freshness that both hearkens back to old comics but also forges ahead with a modern vibe. The colors are used carefully, often more muted and subtle and then popping into bright colors when important events happen. It’s very cleverly done.
An amazing and complex superhero arrives in this graphic novel that both pays homage and reinvents the first Asian-American super hero. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and First Second.