by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
The series that has been coming out in individual chapters reached its final release this week and The Shadow Hero is now available as a full graphic novel. The story, which set out to introduce the world to the never-told story of The Green Turtle, the first Asian-American superhero, has unveiled its final chapter. The creative team of Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew have managed to tell a story that is filled with humor, quality storytelling and enough weight to be engaging for a true all-ages audience. In the final chapter, readers learn what kind of hero Hank will be as he finally faces off against Ten Grand.
The Shadow Hero has continued to find ways to be familiar while still being original and that has been a huge benefit to the story. In the sixth and final chapter, Hank sits down with a daughter of Ten Grand. After coming to the realization that the girl he was attempted to protect was related to the very man he was trying to take down, this agreement to meet with her seemed ill-advised. However, Luen Yang uses the situation to develop the character of Ten Grand for readers. There are some very interesting choices made here in the story of the book’s villain and they do well to humanize the character. Readers learn just how Ten Grand came to be as he was raised by a man known as Uncle Useless. There are certainly some heavy parts in this final chapter, but it never breaks the character or spirit of the series. Simultaneously, Sonny Liew utilizes an altered color palette for these sequences.
For the final chapter, the story has a very sharp focus with a majority of the time spent on two scenes. As the readers are brought up to speed on who Ten Grand is Hank is introduced to his final task, one meant to prove his worth in similar fashion to how Ten Grand proved himself to Uncle Useless. Yang and Liew do an excellent job with the choreography of the fighting sequences while balancing the interactions of the involved and peripheral characters so that the story never spends too long on one. It is sublet in how this shifting is utilized but it allows for the second half of this chapter to be very effective in its action and pacing. As the chapter rounds out, readers will have reached a point of resolution that comes quite naturally.
The journey that Hank goes through in The Shadow Hero features some familiar beats to other superheroes, but Yang finds ways to provide originality throughout. Placing the story in the dawn of the superhero era and using that as part of the tale is an interesting choice that works well. Additionally, Yang uses aspects of the early 20th century society for Asian immigrants in conjunction with the tale. As a result the story balances between realistic fiction and superhero in a way that feels both informative and exciting. The end result is a tale that has enough originality without stepping so far away and the perfectly complimented art style to take readers through this world.
While the experience of reading this tale in chapters over several months mirrors that of the general comic book publication pace, the story is being released to the public as one completed graphic novel. As such, it will be curious to see how readers who consume the story as one completed work will view it by comparison. Either way, the craft of both creators is well displayed in this publication and The Shadow Hero is worthy of the audience for which it aims.
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