Friday, March 14, 2014

Booknote: The Shadow Hero

Gene Luen Yang, The Shadow Hero. New York: First Second, 2014. ISBN: 9781596436978. (Link to publisher blog. This title due out for release July 2014). 

Gene Luen Yang is the author of American Born Chinese, which I previously reviewed. This time Gene Yang brings us the story of the first Asian American superhero. As in previous works, the themes of coming to the new world and the differences between the older generation from the Old Country and the new generation growing up in the United States are present in this book.

In the Chinese neighborhood, a store keeper strives to make a living and provide for his family, a fate that his wife sees as beneath her. Their son becomes her pet project, her way to live her grandiose fantasies vicariously as she tried to make a superhero out of him (inspired by other accounts of heroes in the news) with painfully amusing (to us) results. The neighborhood is controlled by a crime lord, so a hero is needed, and our very reluctant protagonist needs to take the heroic mantle of the hero that will be known as the Green Turtle. However, he is not alone. An ancient Asian spirit that came to the New World sort of helps him along the way.

I liked the tale overall, though I will say that I found the overbearing mother character to be grating at times, not to mention somewhat ungrateful given her husband's efforts to do the best he can with what he has. Some readers may find the character amusing, so I will leave it to them to decide. Aside from that, overall, it is a good and entertaining story of a boy coming to his destiny and of the value of family.

The Green Turtle was a hero from the old Blazing Comics of the 1940s. Yang has done much research to bring the character to life and expand the story for a new generation. He re-imagines the origin story to create an entertaining narrative that also speaks of family, tradition, and the immigrant experience. The book includes a small essay discussing 1940s comics, how the Green Turtle fit in, and how Yang re-envisioned the character for a new generation with creativity, reverence, and respect.

I am giving this 4 out of 5 stars as I really liked it. This is a volume that public libraries will definitely want to add, especially if they have already added other works by this author to their collections. Comics readers will likely enjoy the backstory as much as the tale. This is one I would add for our academic library here for recreational reader. Overall, it is an all-ages story that many will enjoy.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. The idea was for me to provide a fair and honest review. There has been no compensation. There, we keep The Man appeased once more. 

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