Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
You can go two ways here: 1. Just read this as is, without context or background, and you would enjoy it immensely because it’s just so much fun; 2. Invest a little research time before you open the book and reach the final page satisfied and enlightened, and exponentially up your delight in the process.
For your own edification, I’m hoping you choose option 2 and allow Gene Luen Yang (history-making, two-time National Book Award finalist for American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints, and on-going Avatar-maker) to give you the background by clicking here for his introductory video: Original creator “Chu Hing wanted the Green Turtle to be a Chinese American superhero and his publishers didn’t think that would fly in the marketplace. So Chu Hing reacted in this really passive-aggressive way …” Tune in.
Appearing and disappearing in just six issues in the 1940s, the Green Turtle was not long for this world … until Yang and artist Sonny Liew decided to resurrect the mysterious superterrapin-to-be with an engaging, insightful backstory as the American-born Chinese son of immigrants in 1930s Chinatown. “Superheroes are also about immigrants,” Yang writes on his website. “Take at look at Superman, the granddaddy of them all. His parents sent him to America in search of a better life. He had two names, one American (Clark Kent) and the other foreign (Kal-El). He wears two sets of clothes and lives in between two cultures. He loves his new home, but a part of him longs for his old one. In The Shadow Hero, Sonny Liew and I explore the immigrant experience through the genre of superheroes.”
Meet Hank Chu, the son of a grocer father and a housekeeper/chauffeur mother. One parent is mild-mannered and easy-going. The other not so much. Hank wants to grow up to be just like Ba. Ma, of course, has other ideas: after surviving an exciting bank robbery/kidnapping thanks to the assistance of the Anchor of Justice, Ma decides – just like that! – her son, too, will be a superhero. She puts today’s tiger mothers to shame with her tunnel-vision determination … toxic exposures, broken bones, and ill-fitting costumes included.
With Yang’s deft storytelling and Liew’s expressive, swashbuckling art, Shadow proves to be a poignant, humorous, and downright inspiring Hero for the 21st century. Wow. Really WOW.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult