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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Asian American Superheroes at last!

Yang, Jeff; Shen, Parry; Chow, Keith; Ma, Jerry (2009) Secret Identities:  The Asian American Superhero Anthology  New York:  The New Press

     Most graphic novels I review in this bloggy thing do not involve superheroes.  I try to avoid them because the stories are usually not that good and because some people think that superheroes are the only thing graphic novels contain and because usually it is a stretch to think of using them in the classroom.  In this case, though, I am going to make an exception.
    When I was growing up reading comics, Asian Americans appeared in comic books in usually three roles:  the sidekick (Kato, manservant of the Green Hornet), the martial arts master (Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu); or the villain (Fu Manchu, the Silver Samurai, the Hand, etc).  This anthology is a team up of some up-and-coming Asian American graphic novel artists who take a new look at what an Asian superhero could be.  The stories are short (I often wished they could go on and sometimes felt that just as I was getting lost in a story, it ended.) but most of them are very well done.  "Driving Steel" takes place in the wild west, where a Chinese immigrant superhero defends some railroad workers and unwittingly teams up with another American folk hero. Another of my favorite stories was "The Blue Scorpion and Chung" which nicely turns the Green Hornet story on its head. In fact, most of these stories have an ironic twists to them somewhere.
Some other stories are simply parodies, like this cover shot:

     The whole book is great fun.  There are some moments of excessive violence and sometimes ignorant unsympathetic characters use racial slurs, so this might be best for sixth grade and up.  If you like comics and like seeing justice done at last, you'll appreciate this.  If you can't stand comics, you might want to stay clear. 

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