The foundation of this very clever and well made book is a long forgotten super hero from the World War II era known as The Green Turtle. Created by cartoonist Chu Hing, the Turtle may well have been the first Chinese American super hero. I say "may" not just because there may be an even more obscure hero we don't know about but also because it wasn't always clear that The Green Turtle was, in fact, Chinese.
Chu Hing's influences from Chinese culture were evident but the publisher was less keen on putting a Chinese super hero on the cover of a comic book. So The Green Turtle spent a lot of time in shadow or with his back to the reader.
ventually The Green Turtle's comic book career came to an end after appearing in 5 issues of Blazing Comics. But over 70 years later, Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew plucked The Green Turtle from the dustbin of obscurity to create a very entertaining comic book.
The Shadow Hero follows a teenager by the name of Hank Chu who wants nothing more than to follow in his father's footsteps and run the Chinatown grocery his father owns. But a chance encounter between Hank's mom and a super hero prompts his mother to pursue a new mission in life: turn her son into a super hero. This leads to a series of comic misadventures where mom tries to expose Hank to various things like chemical spills to give him super powers.
The closest thing to a super power that Hank develops is his skin turns pink (very, very pink) when he gets wet.
There's a lot of humor throughout this book. But like the best work of Keith Giffen & J M DeMatteis, it is humor that exists side by side with tragedy. Chinatown is in the merciless grip of a powerful crime lord that Hank has the misfortune to cross, leading to dire consequences for himself and his family. But its at his lowest point that Hank Chu discovers a family secret that rejuvenates Hank to take up the garb of The Green Turtle and resolve to bring down the Chinatown crime lord.
Keeping pace with Gene's extraordinary adventure is the astonishing artwork of Sonny Liew. Sonny delivers on action sequences as well as people standing around talking. He's adept at drawing the funny scenes as well as the sad ones. The mundane and the magical are both well served by Sonny's art.
I know I'm a little behind the times as this book came out last year but I'm glad I decided to try The Shadow Hero. I recommend that if you can buy or borrow a copy (do not steal, as that is quite shameful), do yourself a favor and read this book.
Sometime next week, I'm going to look at the collected edition of a Vertigo series that came out a few years ago. Hey, any comic I haven't read before is a new comic, right?
More posts coming every day. That's either a threat or a promise, your choice. In the meantime, remember to be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You