Gene Luen Yang, illus. by Sonny Liew. First Second, $17.99 paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-59643-6978
Yang further establishes himself as one of YA’s leading voices on the Chinese-American experience by inventing a backstory for a forgotten comic-book character who was arguably the first Asian superhero. As explained in a postscript, the Green Turtle blinked into and quickly disappeared from publication during the 1940s superhero boom; he would likely be condemned to obscurity if not for rumors suggesting that creator Chu Hing masked the character’s ethnicity so that he could be read as a Chinese superhero (the face of the original Green Turtle is almost always obscured). Yang and Liew run with this theory and cast the Green Turtle as 19-year-old Hank Chu, a second-generation Chinese American who (at his mother’s urging) takes up crime fighting, aided by an ancient shadow spirit that gives him limited superpowers and provides some hilarious banter. Racism, romance, humor, and identity all play important roles in Yang and Liew’s evocation of Hank’s life in pre-WWII San Francisco as they create an origin story that blends classic comics conventions (at one point, Hank’s mother pushes him into a toxic spill in an attempt to give him superpowers) with a distinctly Chinese perspective.