The last chapter of The Shadow Hero was heart breaking. It’s not too surprising that it was since Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew are telling a superhero tale at its core. It’s not that they’re sticking to the formula, but they are at times. Unlike with other superhero origin stories they’re just better at the craft and so when they do use the formula it’s not as obvious. In this issue Hank is still dealing with losing his father. He’s the only one to run the store, but people are avoiding the market because of what happened and fear of crossing the Tongs. They still have to pay their money to the Tongs though and so Hank’s mom has to borrow money from his Uncle’s to do so. Hank’s not allowed to just drop it off casually like his father was able to do so before, because the Tong of Sticks isn’t done making an example out of him. While delivering the money Tong tells Hank to get on his knees as one of his goons holds a gun to Hank’s head. The shadow turtle pops up around this time and Hank talks to him and everyone basically thinks he’s crazy. He does clarify that bullets can’t touch him and so Hank refuses to kneel. The goon takes the shot and bullet whizzes past him and hits the other goon in the head. Hank flees as Tong yells at his man for making a mistake.
From there Hank decides that he’s going to continue being a hero, but he’s going to do it his way. He does ask for his mother’s help, but she’s utterly defeated by the events that led to her husband’s death. Hank’s plan is brash, but at least he’s doing something even if he forgets that he shouldn’t reveal his bulletproof nature.
This issue perfectly complements the emotion of the last issue. The story doesn’t just move on and have Hank shrug his shoulders and say “I’m a hero now.” Instead it’s more of how he emotionally copes with losing his father. Frankly I only see it leading to more tragedy in the future, but we’ll see. Yang has crafted a multi-dimension character with Hank which makes him wonderful to read. Really all of the characters have depth. Hank’s mom is spot on in this issue and the reader really feels her defeat.
There isn’t enough that I can say about Liew’s artwork. He adds so much of the emotion and character that gives the characters depth. The scene in which Hank talks to the Turtle for the first time is amazing. Not just because he does it right in front of the gangsters, but because you can feel his sigh when he accepts his fate and puts his absolute trust in the Turtle. I felt that sigh for sure.
This story is impressive and I continue to enjoy it in single issue format. I think that speaks volumes for the creators that the story is so well constructed that it can be presented in chapters and still does the overall story justice. We’re a month away from the full graphic novel’s release, but if you can’t wait that long I would highly recommend checking out the single issues.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang Artist: Sonny Liew Publisher: First Second Books Price: $0.99 Release Date: 5/20/14 Format: OGN, Digital