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The Shadow Hero #3

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by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Every hero needs their cause. It’s not enough to just want to make the world better. There is almost always a personal drive to their cause that really pushes these people and gives them the purpose and strength. Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, so far, have presented a great story about Hank and his family as they attempt to make their own way in the early days of the United States. With The Shadow Hero #3, readers are shown Hank’s “origin” that he never asked for.

For some of the first issue and a good bit of the second, The Shadow Hero had a great sense of humor. Yang’s script and the art of Liew really meshed well to create some fantastic sequences as Hank attempted to recreate ways other supers got their powers. The mix of absurdity and nods to well-established characters made for some fun. With the third chapter, Yang gives Hank the origin he never was looking for, but the motivation he needs to pursue this path. It’s a definite shift in tone, but the third chapter works well with what has been established so far. Yang uses the comedy and levity to engage and invest the readers so as the third chapter takes shape, there is a connection established.

Throughout this series, something that Yang has done to really bring an added layer to the tale has been to tie it to American history. Even without the hero-plot, the tale of Hank and his family is one that has real authenticity. The exploration of the turn of the century urban landscape is really well handled and comes heavily into play in this chapter. Hank’s father has been bullied into paying dues to a neighborhood crime organization known as the Tong of Sticks, headed by a man named Mock Jaw. The shady deals, corruption and control these groups had and how it impacted neighborhoods is brought into the story in this issue.

When Hank’s father misses a payment, it doesn’t end well for he or his business, and Hank decides to dawn the costume and fight for justice. Hank’s youthful drive and family pride set him in motion before he has taken much into consideration about his actions and their likely result. There is tragedy to this story. This is never more apparent than in the characterization of his mother. Her role is much more subdued in this issue, but her influence is incredibly apparent in both Hank’s choices and the family dynamics. Readers may feel sorry for Hank and his father for the pressures that she has placed on them.

The third chapter of the story is the best blend of the different aspects Yang has put to page so far. It has some great comedic beats, including a fantastically subtle scene of Hank, in costume; take the bus uptown to face his nemesis. Liew’s art plays the scene straight, and it is a great complement to the absurdity of this action. But its historical elements and Hank’s desire for a hero’s path take shape in a way that is impressively impactful. The Shadow Hero has so much to offer in both script and art. Yang and Liew continue to impress and the third chapter raises the bar.

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