by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Every hero has their origin story. There is something that provides them with their abilities as well as some event or motive to pursue this course or path. In The Shadow Hero #2, Hank transforms from regular guy into hero. Well, he does so in a way. His origin, his grand transformation is not quite so grand. It, however, is certainly unique and unexpectedly entertaining. Yang and Liew introduced readers to this world last chapter, and here they bring a terrific sense of humor to the title and it makes for an even better second issue.
As the first issue concluded, Hank’s mother had had a run in with a superhero. What better career path for her son! She returned home to give him the good news and stitch him a costume. There was just one problem: Hank has no powers! The hilarity that fills the pages of issue two is constant. Readers are taken through a series of attempts to provide Hank with the abilities he would need to be a successful superhero. Within it are nods to several other superheroes that readers may notice. As this path seems to be failing, Hank’s mother figures out a completely different angle, paying homage to another well known hero. Unlike that masked crime fighter, Hank’s road to becoming a symbol for hope and justice is not so honorable.
His mother’s misunderstandings and misinterpretations, her shameless eavesdropping and crusade to create this persona for Hank all play very well. Yangs script in chapter two is naturally comedic and readers will find themselves audibly laughing their way from cover to cover. But the book isn’t all laughs, as Yang finds ways to sneak in some moments of true unrest between family members. It’s done in small moments, but adds a layer to the characters of the world and it emphasizes Yang’s craft.
Paired with this fantastic script is more excellent art from Sonny Liew. The coloring continues to boast a very interesting, but muted palette. The city feels a bit muddied, tarnished, and it has character. The designs of the people and cityscapes are a bit imperfect, and it adds a voice to the story all on its own.
‘Unconventional’ is definitely a word that can describe the story of Hank and his journey to becoming the hero his mother believes he can be. After two chapters, The Shadow Hero has hit stride and there is no question that this book is a gem. Yang and Liew make for a fantastic pair and they certainly have an interesting story to tell about the first Asian-American caped crusader. Will Hank get superpowers, an arch nemesis? Will he become the symbol the city looks to for hope and justice? Whatever the case, Yang and Liew have ensured that the journey will be unique and well worth experiencing.