Rebecca and I look forward to the Small Press Expo all year, where independently published artists and writers sell their comic books and graphic novels. Each year, we assure each other that we are going to post a review on the blog about all of our excellent purchases, but each year, we get home exhausted, and stretch the reading out over several months, and never quite get around to putting together a cohesive review. But this year will be different!
…Okay, so SPX was a few weeks months ago, but we’ve still got a couple of great finds to share with you!
The Shadow Hero
By Gene Luen Yang (author) and Sonny Liew (artist)
I picked up this graphic novel almost immediately upon entering the floor, and it turned out to be my favorite purchase. The author and artist are both Asian Americans, who had discovered a very short run of what was likely the first Asian American superhero, the Green Turtle. They elaborate more on the source material in the back of the book, but the short version is that it was written by a Chinese American author during World War II, showing allied China defending American against Japanese agents. The Green Turtle himself is kept very mysterious in the original books, and is never given any sort of backstory, which Yang and Liew decide to correct in their update.
The update works brilliantly! The plot is very clever, characters are all so wonderful, and the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. I was giggling through the whole thing, much to Rebecca’s amusement and exasperation. (When she read it, she laughed, too, but also said that it might hit her second-hand-embarrassment squick a bit much for her to fully enjoy.)
By Megan James
Innsmouth was a close second, though only the first three issues were available (the fourth one has come out in the time it took me to actually post this review), of what will hopefully be a long-running series. (The only drawback to the independent publishing is, who knows how long there will be funding for any given project. If only I were a millionaire!)
It takes place in the fictional town of Innsmouth, MA, made famous by Lovecraft in his stories. In this narrative, Innsmouth is a fairly normal New England town, with a small university, and a religious cult that worships Cthulhu, which pretty much everyone tries to tolerate by ignoring.
You can read the first issue online, introducing Randolph Higgle, who is a junior acolyte of the cult, basically doing door-to-door evangelizing, until he is forced into more responsibility than he can handle and he goes to outside help for advice. The author comments that she always loved the Lovecraft stories, while pretty much despising the man himself, so it is her ambition to capture as much of a the gloomy fun as possible without any of the racism and other bigotry.