Review #38: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

a forwardsandbookwords review

Cover Reviethe shadow herow: It’s a solid cover. It gives you a good sense of the art style and the subject of the book (superheroes, obviously).
Book: The Shadow Hero
Author(s): Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Description: Graphic novel YA compilation of 6 comic issues (did that make any sense? I’m new to the comic/graphic novel world. I don’t know what I’m talking about)
Publishing Information: Released July 15, 2014 by First Second
Pages: 169
First Line: In 1911, the Chi’ing Dynasty collapsed, ending two millennia of imperial rule over China.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The Shadow Hero is based on golden-age comic series The Green Turtle, whose hero solved crimes and fought injustice just like any other comics hero. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity…The Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero.
Now, exactly seventy years later, New York Times-bestselling author Gene Luen Yang has revived this nearly forgotten, pioneering character in a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the golden-age Green Turtle.
With artwork by the unmatched Sonny Liew, this hilarious and insightful graphic novel about heroism and heritage is also a loving tribute to the long, rich tradition of American superhero comics.

pros and cons

I picked up this book completely on a whim. I was just sitting on my couch, thinking about how daunting my current read (a Brandon Sanderson book – ahhh) is, and that maybe I should pick up another little book on the side. The Shadow Hero was sitting on the couch next to me because my sister was planning on reading it soon, and I just picked it up.
I’m not going to lie and pretend like I know anything about superhero comics or the history behind this one, but it was fascinating. If you read the synopsis, you’ll know that this was a re-vamped version of an unsuccessful comic from “The Golden Age”, and reading about the history behind this story in the back of the book after finishing the actual story made me enjoy it even more.
I don’t typically read superhero story or watch any of the big superhero movies, but this story did seem to have a few of the typical superhero tropes (that I can’t get too into without spoiling things). Still, the culture and that was included was refreshing and helped to make this such a fast read.
The Plot: 
The plot really took me by surprise. It was a lot funnier and more (for lack of a better word) ridiculous than I thought it would be. It follows a boy named Hank whose mother is unsatisfied with her life in America. Of course, this is before her life is saved by a superhero and she decides that her son’s destiny must be to become a superhero. The only issue is, he doesn’t have any powers, and in his attempt to prove himself to his mother, Hank makes some very powerful enemies.
The story was incredibly fast-paced, as graphic novels tend to be. I love that it was able to combine a kick-butt story with culture and also a ton of humor. The ending wasn’t anything unexpected, but it was satisfying and I enjoyed it.
The Characters:
I really liked the family dynamic in this book. Sure, the mom was a little crazy and the dad was sad all of the time, but going into this with the knowledge that it was about superheroes, I expected our main character to be either an orphan or the child of mad scientists.
Hank’s mom was hilarious. She was crazy, but the scenes that included her were absolutely crazy and ridiculous and my absolute favorites. She also had some pretty admirable character development throughout the story.
I also really loved Hank’s relationship with his dad. While his mother thought that his grocer father was nothing to be proud of, Hank loved working with his father and someday dreamed of taking over the family business. It was a really cute element of the book.
All of the side characters were pretty well developed, although I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of all of Hank’s enemies (which either gives you a taste for my horrible memory or what a horrible situation Hank is suddenly thrust into). Hank’s love interest was fantastic. It seemed like the type of thing that would be insta-love, but it really surprised me. She was maybe even more kick-butt than Hank, which was really nice because in the time period that the book takes place in (and even still today *sigh*) calling people a girl, or saying they fought like a girl, was used as an insult.
Like I said before, Hank’s mom was fantastic. I think my absolute favorite moment was pretty close to the beginning of the book when she decided that Hank was destined to be a superhero. She was eavesdropping on some ladies who were talking about how a famous superhero become a superhero, and one of the ways was exposure to acid. In the next scene, she and Hank are walking by an accident involving a truck carrying toxic waste, and she literally kicks her son into it. It was so unexpected and hilarious and I did a horrible job of describing it, so I apologize.
I also loved reading all of the history and explanation behind the graphic novel at the end of the book. It was honestly fascinating and really added a lot to the story.
The wasn’t really anything in particular that I didn’t like about this book, but it just wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t mind-blowing by any means, but it was a solid story. There were a ton of fight scenes, which just aren’t my favorite, but that’s a personal preference.

final thoughts

This was a really enjoyable, quick read. I’m not huge on superhero stories, but it was entertaining and exceeded my expectations. If you like reading the classic superheroes or watching the superhero movies, you’ll probably enjoy this story. It was definitely nice to read such a unique story while also learning about the history behind it.
4/5 stars
Goodreads         Barnes and Noble        Amazon       IndieBound

Thanks for reading! 🙂


3 thoughts on “Review #38: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

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