5 star rating
The Shadow Hero
By Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
ISBN #978-1-59643-692-8
Author Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Caro


In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity… The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of “American Born Chinese,” Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in “Shadow Hero,” a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

With artwork by Sonny Liew, this gorgeous, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore.


In this origin graphic novel, the reader learns the story behind how the Golden Man of Bravery, later the Green Turtle is born into the superhero world. We see that his father came into America by accident protected by the tortoise spirit, and his mother with dreams embed by the American movies she was fond of, to later realize that the life of Chinese families in a new country was nothing what she expected.

This was an aspect of the comic’s origin story that I really liked described and illustrated. It shows the struggles, not just Chinese families went through in that specific time, but any other foreigner could have dealt with coming to an unknown country. The mother had her expectations, somewhat, crushed while the father had a new start that in return gave him a loving son.

Said son, only wanted to grow up and be like the wonderful father figure he had: run the store and have a son of his own. But when the mother finds herself in trouble and is saved by the Anchor of Justice, she becomes obsessed with the idea of her son, now seen under a new light, that he becomes a superhero, too. This might have been the most hilarious part of the whole comic! The mother does everything from sewing the superhero costume herself to pushing her son into toxic waste just to see if he would get superpowers. With all of her ‘research’ I’m surprised she didn’t develop powers instead. She was such a nice mother, that when it came time to find the bad guys, she became her son’s personal Robin and drove him around town at night.

No superhero origin story is left without its tragic moment, giving him the will to become what he is destined for, and the same thing happens here. Once the Green Turtle realizes that he is the only one that can bring justice to China town, he embraces what his mother tried so hard to make him do and he goes out to confront the Emperor. Which is not as easy as he thought it would be, for he discovers that his tortoise spirit wasn’t the only one to travel from one continent to the other.

The Shadow Hero is definitely a graphic novel I would recommend you read. It has aspects such as family values, superhero standards, and personal views of life that make the reader think beyond your typical superhero story. The illustration concentrates more in the characters than in a detailed background, which I really liked because I could focus more on their reactions. At the end I was left with a very refreshing story to remember and look forward if author Gene Luen Yang decides to do another one 🙂 .

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*