The latest chapter of Gene Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero adds one of the most important components to any superhero: personal tragedy to provide a reason to stand up against evil in the world. Hank vaguely knew that his father paid money to someone every month, but he was unaware of the reasons or the exact recipient; however, after Hank’s injuries in Chapter 2, the family forgets to pay, and the debtors show up in their little grocery store demanding recompense. Without the ability to pay double the protection fee to Mock Beak, leader of The Tong of the Sticks, Hank’s Ba (father) loses a sentimental jade pendant, which compels the young man to once again don his Golden Man of Bravery ensemble to avenge the loss.
As a newcomer to this new incarnation of The Shadow Hero, I missed a little of the backstory, but I really didn’t need it to become absorbed. Fundamentally, this chapter, which is titled “Fathers and Sons,” is about the strong ties between children and their parents, even if the exact circumstances are viewed through an old-school Chinatown movie script lens. The love between Hank and his father is palpable, and it made me believe that a naïve young man would try challenging the Tong for honor. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Hank’s Ma (mother) Hua has no compunction about calling the men in her family cowards for knuckling under Tong’s oppression, though!
The artwork transported me into the world of Chinatown in the 1940s, and the muted colors highlighted the overall peacefulness and ordinariness of the world. Brighter reds and yellows during fight sequences and on Hank’s costume stood out against the soft shades of the surroundings.
If you’ve wanted a little more diversity in your superheroes, have a fondness for stories of the Chinese Mafia, or just enjoy reading about heroes who are more ordinary than super, I suggest giving The Shadow Hero a try! Yang and Liew’s version of Hank is wonderfully relatable, and his love and respect for those closest to him make him a wonderfully human protagonist. Chapter 3 isn’t as funny as the previous ones, but it adds depth to who Hank will become in the future, and I’m eager for the next installment.
The full collection of The Shadow Hero won’t be available from First Second Books until July 15, but new chapters will be released digitally each month until the hard copy release. For information on where to find the series, click here.
5 Cases of Asking Your Mom to Borrow the Neighbor’s Car out of 5