A Story Unfinished for Seventy Years: “The Shadow Hero” by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

This post was originally published in “The Elkhart Truth” in October 2014. 

What makes Gene Luen Yang stand out as a comic book creator is his background in education: until fairly recently, he was a high school computer science teacher, who created comics as a hobby. Then “American Born Chinese,” which he both wrote and illustrated, became the first comic to be a finalist for the National Book Award in 2006.

Yang’s works always aim to educate, whether about immigrant stereotypes in “American Born Chinese” or the complicated history of the Boxer Rebellion in his more recent “Boxers & Saints.” (You can read my review of “Boxers & Saints” in the Commons Comics archives.) His newest work, “The Shadow Hero,” a collaboration with Malaysian-born illustrator Sonny Liew, is a prequel to the short-lived “Green Turtle” series from the 1940s, and closes with an essay about the original series, as well as a complete reproduction of the first issue.

But since some readers, especially of comics, tend to associate “educate” with “zzzzzzz” or “too many words,” let me assure you: “Shadow Hero” is not just smart and instructive, but also visually striking, action-packed, and often surprising.

Since my last post was about comics for very young kids, I should note that “Shadow Hero” is written for teens and older. As with a lot of superheroes, a violent family tragedy catapults Green Turtle into maturity and responsibility—as well as into a vaguely silly costume that needs a few revisions before it settles into a final form.

Continue reading “A Story Unfinished for Seventy Years: “The Shadow Hero” by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew”

“Monster Portraits,” by Del and Sofia Samatar

“Monster Portraits,” by Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar. Rose Metal Press. February 2018. 84 pp. Paper, $14.95. Adult.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

2018 has been a great year for literary monsters. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is celebrating its 200th anniversary, and Emil Ferris’s graphic novel “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” won three Eisners, the most vaunted award for comics in the U.S.

Siblings Sofia and Del Samatar’s new book “Monster Portraits” settles comfortably between these two celebrated texts. Itself a monstrous hybrid of many genres—picture book, travel narrative, memoir, science fiction story, philosophical treatise, and scholarly gloss—“Monster Portraits” gathers centuries of monsters close for examination, honor, and affectionate portrayal. These are, after all, “portraits,” not the mug shots that society expects of those it deems monstrous. Continue reading ““Monster Portraits,” by Del and Sofia Samatar”

Batman, Bieber, and the Black Prince: “Step Aside, Pops” by Kate Beaton

This review first appeared in the community blog section of the “Elkhart Truth’ in late February/early March of 2016. I’m resurrecting this review now because Kate Beaton is a transatlantic artistic soulmate of French cartoonist Penelope Bagieu, author and illustrator of “Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World,’ which I’ll be reviewing in August.

I highly recommend stopping by Better World Books on 215 S. Main St. in Goshen to pick up a copy of your own and get a head start. If you like the title and the cover, you won’t be disappointed!

(Thanks to Better World Books in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of the books I review at the store.)

Comics collections don’t tend to include an index, but Kate Beaton is not your typical comics artist. Here’s an excerpt from the Bs at the back of her most recent collection, ‘Step Aside, Pops’:

Baker, Dr. Sara Josephine   66-68
Batman   58
Battle of Ridgeway   146-147
Beaton, Laureen   10-15
Bell, Alexander Graham   107
Bennett, Elizabeth   33
Bieber, Justin   78 Continue reading “Batman, Bieber, and the Black Prince: “Step Aside, Pops” by Kate Beaton”