In case you missed it, First Second has been releasing all of Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s upcoming graphic novel The Shadow Hero in digital chapters leading up to the July 15th release of the *ogn. Additionally, the story is based on the first Asian superhero The Green Turtle. Yang and Liew’s take on the character and the new world that they’ve built has had a great start, but now our main character Hank has entered the superhero business and it’s not going too well for him. His first encounter with thugs sidelined him and now his father is nursing him back to health. No big deal until they hear four knocks at the door. Hank explains that every month his father takes an envelope of money to a run-down shop and knocks four times on the door before giving the envelope to the man who answers. Hank’s dad realizes that he’s forgotten to make his payment and so he quickly runs down to greet Mock Beak. Beak tells Hank’s dad that he owes double for being late with the payment even though he has the money and just didn’t remember to deliver it. Hank doesn’t help the situation as he gets involved and the traditional jade piece that his dad wears is taken from him. All of this of course happens just before Hank’s mom arrives home from work.
As much as I would like to I can’t spoil the rest of the issue. It’s an important chapter in the story for sure because it acts as the catalyst for everything else to come. Now with the unique structure of this series and the fact that in some ways it’s a deconstructed graphic novel, this issue ends up being really good. It’s unfair to compare it to the previous two issues because they’re different parts in the story. All three are very good in their own way, but if you’re following these individual issues then this one will stand out the most for sure. If you wait for the graphic novel you’ll pause after this chapter because so much happens in the story.
It’s strange because usually I would say “Yang continues writing a well-plotted story” which is true, but it’s a story that’s already done. I think the true testament of Yang’s writing is the fact that it’s so well constructed that it can be split up into individual issues and those issues can stand on their own and feel as if they’re adding an equal part to the overall story. Not many graphic novels can say the same.
Probably my favorite part of the story was watching Hank connect with his mother. For once in his life he wanted to make her happy and missed her attention when previously he hadn’t noticed that it wasn’t there. They’re back and forth conversation was classic mother and son and while it seemed like a comedic moment it was also a bonding moment as well. This scene also shows the strong collaboration between the creators as both narrative and art play a role.
One thing I rack my brain with on this series is how Yang and Liew work together. Not that I think there’s drama, but with both of them being skilled storytellers and illustrators I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they were collaborating. Liew is a master at facial expressions. When Hank’s mom arrives home to find both men beaten and the store damaged the disappointment on her face is very real. It was so real I thought she was ashamed of me and I was just trying to enjoy the story.
There are several action scenes in this issue/chapter and Liew makes everything easy to follow, but never sacrifices the intensity of the scene. There are also touching moments like the one I mentioned previously, but others I can’t tell you about. Let’s just say that Liew really pulls on the heartstrings with his illustrations.
Part of me didn’t want to keep reading the individual chapters like this, but I couldn’t resist. How could I stop reading a book that I already know is so incredible when presented with more to read? If you’re waiting on the graphic novel I can’t say I blame you because once The Shadow Hero has its hooks in you, you won’t be able to stop reading.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang Artist: Sonny Liew Publisher: First Second Books Price: $0.99 Release Date: 4/15/14
*OGN = Original Graphic Novel