The Shadow Hero #4: 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 with issue #4, we finally see our new hero’s first costumed adventure.

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.

After a compelling set-up, and heart-wrenching issue #3, Gene Luen Yang finally launches our hero on his first real 43531adventure as The Shadow Hero. As with Yang’s last three issues, the pacing and structure of issue #4 is impeccable — after the murder of Hank’s father in issue #3 our mourning hero inadvertently puts the deal with his mystic guardian to the test by approaching the Tong of Sticks in his street clothes, and looking to settle his dead father’s debt. This humble act, of course, is not good enough for Tong of Sticks and Hank learns (the hard way) that he truly is bullet proof now. This leads, of course, to a new call of action and Hank dons the mask for the first time. What makes this issue (and really anything that Yang does) so great is that the plot is drum tight, but so is the emotional journey of our new hero. Hank is funny, but heartbreaking; he is proud, but insecure — a true hero’s hero and Yang once again delivers masterfully.

Sonny Liew continues to delight with his art — especially with issue #3, which calls for dark and somber tones, punctuated by upbeat moments of levity. Of special note is Liew’s large panels of Hank in his costume — we see The Shadow Hero in all his glory finally and it’s a joy.

Again, 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.

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