“The Shadow Hero” by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew Brings the Golden Age Comics Back to Life

The Shadow Hero is a grand undertaking by acclaimed artist and author Gene Luen Yang and illustrator Sonny Liew. In the 1940’s, known as the Golden Age of comics, unknown cartoonist Chu Hing created a World war II superhero named the Green Turtle. He wore a mask and cape and his face wasn’t shown to readers. Instead his turtle like shadow was visible.

The Green Turtle defended China and it is rumored that Hing intended the superhero to be Chinese. There were blatant and offensive racial stereotypes in the books, mostly aimed at Chinese characters. Only five issues of the book were made.

Now, 70 years later Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew have revisited and expanded upon the original books. In their re-imagining the hero is clearly an Asian American. They also introduce a complicated mother character. She is quick witted, strong and proud of her son but she is not without flaws. Far from being used strictly for comic relief the mother adds humanity and humor to the storyline.

Mostly drawn in sepia tones with bolts of red and green the illustrations blend a nod to tradition with the form and expression of contemporary illustrations. The story also has a traditional feel with a modern humor and sensibility. Some of the racial slurs can be difficult to read but the pain is worth it for the glory to read of an Asian American superhero.

The graphic novel which was released on July 15th contains the first 6 issues which can also be bought individually or read online. A benefit of reading the books in the graphic novel format is the extra section at the back of the volume. it includes a note from the author about the history of the original books, how he found the material and why he and Sonny Liew created the new books in the manner that they did. It also has several pages of reprints of the original books.

This is an excellent book for fans of superheros, people hoping to understand the Asian American experience in the 1940’s and fans of graphic novels.

The book is comprised of the following issues:

The Shadow Hero 1: The Green Turtle Chronicles  

The Shadow Hero 2: The Dawn of a Golden Age

The Shadow Hero 3: Fathers and Sons

The Shadow Hero 4: Fights You Cannot Win 

The Shadow Hero 5: True Colors 

The Shadow Hero 6: Enter the Green Turtle 

Each issue has an original cover and is available via Amazon, Apple, and B&N.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publication Date: July 15, 2014
ISBN: 9781596436978
Page Count: 176 pages
Publisher: :01 -First Second

*Thank you :01 for a preview copy of this title.

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