The Shadow Hero #3: Review

Gene Luen Yang, generally known for his long form graphic novels, takes a stab at something a bit more discrete and serialized with his new six-issue project The Shadow Hero. And each issue just keeps getting better.

Here’s the official word from First Second Books:

With American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang changed the landscape of conversation about the Asian-American and immigrant experience in modern America. Now, with The Shadow Hero, Yang is tackling the Asian American story in the context of that most American of art forms: the super hero comic. This is the story of a young Chinese-American man who honors his Chinese heritage by donning a cape and fighting crime.

Issue three is when most story lines fall apart; a tendency that writers call this “the Second Act problem.” The first twoShadowHero-Ecover-3-rgb issues are good for establish setting and characters, but with issue three (which often marks the start of Act 2) the newly minted characters generally have to “do” something — universe building is suddenly not enough, and the novelty can quickly wear off unless there is something major to respond to. Well, with issue #3 of The Shadow Hero our protagonist Hank something *huge* to respond to and writer Gene Luen Yang does a beautiful job of pivoting from origin story in issue #2, to compelling action with issue #3. As careful readers can probably guess, the action involves the local crime syndicate that Hank stumbled into earlier, but now the stakes are considerably raised. What’s especially beautiful about issue #3 is the way Yang’s script balances all the major elements he’s been toying with since the first page of issue #1: family, culture, super heroes, and magic. As a result issue #3 is masterfully executed and deeply satisfying.

Artist Sonny Liew continues to rock out with the art. Yes, there’s an inherent cartoon-look to what he does, but issue #3 demonstrates that he can go dark and strange just as easily. This team is a joy to read.

The Shadow Hero is shaping up to be a phenomenal book, and shouldn’t be missed. If you’re interested in reading The Shadow Hero be aware that each individual issue will only be released digitally (find details here). First Second will release an old-school trade in July 2014.

+ Funny, Heartfelt and Engaging + Pitch-perfect Art

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