Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology

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Tired of the same old superheroes, that have been around for decades? Tired of most them reflecting the traditional Western heroic ideal, ie, typically White males? Tired of Asian characters mostly being martial arts masters (if they’re heroes) or Yakuza members (if they’re villains) or sex objects (if they’re women)? Well, so were the publishers of this collection, so they put together this anthology to do something about that.

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.

TWO THUMBS UP!

Secret Identities can be purchased via the following sites:

SECRETIDENTITIES.ORG

BLACKLAVA.NET

AMAZON

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