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Comments for The Shadow Hero

The Shadow Hero: 11/09/14

cover art

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew is the reimagined backstory for The Green Turtle, a WWII era superhero by Chu Hing. Never heard of him, don't worry, the back of the book includes the history of the comic and the authors' reasons for telling the Turtle's story the way they did.

Hank is a Chinese American living in a Chinatown of a fictional city that bears a passing resemblance and name to San Francisco. Hank enjoys helping his mother and father run their grocery store but he'd rather not be under the "protection" of the local gang boss. When his mother is rescued by the local superhero, she gets new and loftier ideas for Hank's future.

There are two kinds of superheroes: those who have powers because of a tragic accident, and those who have special fighting skills, augmented by gadgetry. Hank's mother will do everything in her power to turn her son into a superhero, of one variety or another.

The two key elements to the original comic that need explaining: the hero's unusually pink skin (pinker than any of the obviously white supporting characters) and his apparent invulnerability to bullets (but nothing else). Yang and Liew suggest that the skin color comes from one of Hank's mother's bad ideas, and the bullet thing being a gift from the Chinese turtle god who has been helping Hank's family for a while.

Hank becomes a reluctant hero, at first at the pushing of his overly enthusiastic mother, and then in response to the crime and corruption he sees around him. While family tragedy plays a part in his growth as a character, a la Peter Parker / Spider-man, Hank's story is grounded in a love for his neighborhood, his mother, and his city.

Five stars

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