Shadow of the Turtle

Tonight is going to be a bit strange. I am giving you all a glimpse of a new feature that will be coming to these pages soon. I don’t really do the whole review thing, at least not in the way of rating stories or anything like that. But I do like to explore stories, not only for the joy of the story but for other aspects that come along with them.

This feature is going to be a trip through graphic novels and possibly more. We are looking at a once a week write up. Not all write ups will be in this format, but they will all be an exploration of the work as I choose to do it. I hope you find these excursions as interesting as I do.

The Shadow of the Turtle

The Shadow Hero is a recreation of an older comic. The graphic novel is written by Gene Luen Yang and the art is done by Sonny Liew. Based on the stories of the Green Turtle from Blazing Comics the reader is shown an updated version of an old comic from one of the first Asian Americans in the comic’s industry. The basic story is fairly simple; Yang and Liew give a new generation the origin story of an iconic Asian superhero.

The overall story covers two different storylines. The first is the shadow that gives the Green Turtle his power and the second is the boy who eventually becomes the Green Turtle. The boy is the main focus of the story but the shadow was a figure within the original comics that had never been defined until this graphic novel. Within that convention they have created a new mythos from the old that breathed new life into the characters.

From a personal stand point, I enjoyed the flow of the story. The boy’s reluctant rise to hero status follows what many would consider a logical path. Many of us do not want to stand out. We don’t want to rock the boat or call attention to how awkward we are in real life. But many times our parents can push us and drive us to become something we may not want to be. The hero’s mother is the main catalyst that drives what the story and the hero become.

In life there comes a time when we have to face up to what our life is forcing on us. In the story this happens to our hero when his father is killed. The turning point comes when the shadow needs a new host to survive. But this is only a portion of the turning point. The shadow and our hero realize that they must strive to stand out. They can’t simply let the world exist around them; they must interact and become apart of it all.

It is in the final resolution that the reader as well as the hero learns the most important thing. It is possible to win a battle by choosing not to be a part of it. Instead of simply reacting to the outside forces, like his father had down when he was young, the hero has learned to think his actions through. He defeats the villain by admitting defeat. Much like his shadow the villain’s shadow had parameters as well. Once the parameters are set they must abide by them. In this the hero is able to be defeated without suffering the fate of those who chose solely to fight their way through their problems.

The engaging storyline is complimented by the artwork. An important distinction comes into play when the reader comes to the end of the story. A section that details facts and rumors of the original comic follows the new story. In that section an excerpt from an original comic is also shared. Sonny Liew followed many of the same patterns of the original in the lines and shadings of each panel. But he also made the art his own by clearing out much of the clutter of the original art. The effect is a cleaner appearance that hints at the original storyline.

An important aspect of this new art style for the storyline is how it affects the story. Mr. Liew’s style changed how the art interacts with the story and the reader overall. Instead of being a static feature, it is now an active participant within the story. Many of the depicted scenes lead the reader through the world and at times stand in for written storyline.

The text adds another visual element to the overall story. The storyline deals with a Chinese community. Much of the dialogue is marked as being translated from Chinese. Though the reader is able to read it, the clues give a sense that there is something more going on than simply what can be seen.

Again from a personal standpoint, I enjoyed the story. If something like this had ever happened for me, I would like to think that I might have picked out a better set of parameters for my powers, but as the story shows, we are more than simply what we classify as our strengths. This book would easily be enjoyed by anyone who loves super heroes. It is also a great exploration of Chinese history in the United States, and gives the reader insights they might not have expected.

You can find out more about this at The Shadow Hero.
Read up on Gene Luen Yang while you’re at it.

If you enjoyed this trip through a story, watch for more on Tuesdays in the future.

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