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Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology Paperback – April 14, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
This anthology about Asian superheroes drawn exclusively by Asian comic artists is a noble concept, but the submissions very greatly in tone, concept, length and overall quality. The book is broken down into sections by theme—historical concepts, one-page hero pitches, a section on girl power and another focusing on ordinary heroes (some of whom happen to have supernatural powers). Many works in the book, such as The Hibakusha—Japanese children born after Hiroshima who gain superpowers—take themselves very seriously. The highlight is The Blue Scorpion & Chung by Yang (American Born Chinese) and Sonny Liew. In a thinly veiled parody of the Green Hornet, the Blue Scorpion's chauffeur is a talented Korean man doing most of the work for his alcoholic employer. The 12-page short effectively confronts race with just the right amount of humor and cynicism, while simultaneously telling a satisfying story. The fake comic cover The Y-Men says everything many of the short stories are trying to, but does so with more effective humor in just one page. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The editors of this highly alternative (to standard stereotypes, that is) comics collection define Asian American to include not just Chinese and Japanese but all the other heritages from India on east, representatives of which have been sidekicks at best and villains more often in American superhero comics. The first illustrated page establishes the predominant satiric tone. It’s the cover of a comic book, The Y-Men, featuring “The Lamest Stupor-Zeroes of All!”—to wit, Four Eyes; “oriental” vamp Madame X; Riceman, slinging globs of “pork-fried pain”; Kamikaze; and Coolie, whose “sweaty feet . . . are express tickets to Hell!” A standout longer contribution is Gene Yang and Sonny Liew’s “The Blue Scorpion and Chung,” in which the latter is the long-suffering driver-sidekick for a foul-mouthed, drunken, white-caped crime fighter. Uniformly energetic, the art ranges from mainstream-comics bravura to manga-influenced sassiness to alt-comics mannerism, and the kinds of superpowers on view are equally varied. Narrative coherence goes AWOL now and then, but the satire usually amuses and sometimes strikes deeper, to the heart. --Ray Olson
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Top customer reviews
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I'm returning this and buying the print version instead, which I'm sure will be excellent.
There was an attempt to create an inter-connected-ness in the book but it didn't engage me enough to even finish the book.
It could be a matter of taste (meaning it could just be me).
This is a tabloid sized, 200 page, black and white comic-book with almost 50 different stories in it. I wish I had the time, and space, to review each and every one of this stories in here, all of which are entertaining, but I'm just to review my personal favorites.
9066 A 4-page story written by Jonathan Tsuei and drawn by Jerry Ma. This is about an unnamed Japanese-American with undefined superpowers (we see him flying, but don't know what else he can do), who became a public hero in the 1930′s. But when Pearl Harbor is hit, the White superheroes whom he thought were his friends turn on him, and insist he turn himself into one of the Internment Camps. It's kinda sad, but the message of the story gets through, loud and clear.
HEROES WITHOUT A COUNTRY An 8-page story written by Daniel Jai Lee & drawn by Vince Sunico. This also deals with Japanese superheroes during WWII. A top-secret squad of Japanese-American soldiers with super-powers goes on a covert mission to Germany to rescue a Jewish-American superhero who has been captured by the Nazis. To do that, they have to face their opposite number, a squad of super-powered Nazi soldiers. They tell a satisfying story within these 8 pages, but I would love to see it stretched out into a full-length story.
THE CITIZEN is a 6-page story written by Greg Pak and drawn by Bernard Chang. This takes place a day after President Obama's election. He has The Citizen, a Japanese-American superhero, taken out of suspended animation, which he was put in after he tried to arrest President Bush for war crimes, and asks for his help in defeating some flying Nazi gremlins. It's a funny story, and I hope Pak and Chang bring this character back soon.
THE BLUE SCORPION & CHUNG is an 8-page story written by Gene Yang & Sonny Liew. The characters are a clear satire of The Green Hornet and Kato where, much like the recent Green Hornet movie, the Asian "sidekick" is actually the more effective hero, whom the White lead hero can't operate without. Chung has had enough of the lack of respect he gets from the Scorpion, and decided to quite. But then realizes that being a hero is more important than his own personal feelings.
SAMPLER is a 6-page story written by Jimmy Aquino and drawn by Erwin Haya. A young woman who works @ her family's Dry Cleaning store, which specializes in cleaning the suits of local superheroes, discovers that she gains the super powers of those heroes when she touches the fabric of their costumes. These abilities come in handy when some criminals try to rob the store one night.
A DAY AT COSTUMECO is a fun little 7-page story written by Jeff Yang and drawn by A.L. Baroza. A family of superheroes go shopping for new costumes for their kids, who attend a school for other young superheroes. But the youngest daughter who, so far, has not manifested any powers, just wants to be a "regular" kid, and has no interest in getting a costume or ever becoming a superhero. All of that changes when a monster attacks the store, and the girl finally embraces her heroic destiny.
Those are just a small sample of the great stories collected within this book. Many of them strive to impart a moral message within the context of the story, while some are just pure entertainment. Although the above stories are the standouts to me, all of the rest are good too. Some better than others, but there isn't one that I would remove from the collection. This is definitely worth the money.