Review: The Shadow Hero

Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew finally bring The Green Turtle full circle with their new graphic novel, The Shadow Hero. The story is inspiring on so many levels. Yang and Liew came together to bring back the not-so-famous comic of 1940s called The Green Turtle. Chu Hing, one of the first Asian American creators, gave life to this character. It was quickly overlooked and after five issues came to end. Yang tells us all about Hing’s story at the end of the comic, but I wanted you to hear the gist of it all. It is alleged that Hing wanted his superhero to be Chinese but with still so many stereotypes and prejudices, a character that was Asian could never fly. Now Yang and Liew take on this 40s hero in honor of Hing and all those heroes who have ever felt suppressed. The story revolves around Hank. He is a young son of a grocer and housemaid in Chinatown. He adores his father and hopes to one day take over the business. Hank’s father was a simple man and has this mysterious shadow that follows him wherever he goes. Hank doesn’t understand all the ins and outs of his father’s business but he certainly doesn’t understand his mother at all. She was always gone to do her housemaid work and seemed to oblige to everything that happened to her. After one fateful day, Hank’s mother got saved by the Anchor of Justice. She was filled with joy and knew exactly what her life’s purpose was; to turn Hank into a superhero! Although Hank wasn’t keen about the idea, his father pushed him into it. His father had never seen his wife so happy, so what harm could be done. There is only one thing he didn’t have, powers. But don’t worry, mothers can fix anything. This part of the novel is charming. Anytime there is a nuclear spill, spider, rabid dog, and so on, Hank is being coax into touching it by his mother to gain powers. Coming home day after day with strange diseases, the thought of this boy becoming a hero is impossible.

9781596436978 copy 2But after being a tad reluctant and some much-needed training, Hank finally finds himself to be a superhero... sort of. He fights small crime at first, but soon finds himself in the middle of a war. Tongs of Sticks runs his town, and Hank doesn’t take kindly to these people. The Tongs are only the beginning of the huge ring of fire running everything. All Hank needs is a cause to fight for and when he finds that cause only then does Hank see how powerful The Green Turtle really is. He must now face fear on so many levels. How Yang and Liew reveal The Green Turtle is precious and you will only catch this if you know Hing’s story. So if you don’t know it, it may help to read the back first.

Even though the whole story revolves around Hank becoming this superhero, I don’t think that is what the story is about. It is about finding yourself. The story I found the most tragic was the family’s. They struggle because they are Chinese, they struggle because they are broke, they struggle because a gang lord rules over them, they struggle because tragedy hits home, and they keep struggling. The world seems to be against them, so in creating this superhero they not only have created a hero for their town, but they have created hope. No one will oblige to anything anymore. There is a reason to stand up. There is a reason to let go of stereotypes and just live.

This graphic novel is insanely powerful. The weaving of stories is creative and unique. I almost cried during the first true moments we see The Green Turtle. I am so glad that Yang and Liew got a hold of this comic and told the backstory of a real hero. I think everyone will find as much joy in this novel as I did. The Green Turtle just may be my favorite hero of The Golden Age.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Gene Luen Yang Artist: Sonny Liew Publisher: First Second Books Price: $17.99 Release Date: 7/9/14 Format: OGN, Print