Review – The Good Asian #1 (Image Comics)
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artwork: Alexander Tefenkgi
Colours: Lee Loughridge
Lettering: Jeff Powell
Release Date: 5th May 2021
Edison Hark is a Chinese-American detective, one of the first generation to come of age under the immigration ban. Filled with self loathing and a hatred of the abusive system he must work within, Hark is on the hunt for a killer in 1936 Chinatown.
While I’m aware of the existence of the Chinese immigration ban in the US, it’s not something I can claim to know a great deal about. Having spent an informative afternoon reading up on what it actually was and how it was implemented over the decades it was in place (and even after it had been repealed), I’m horrified, if unsurprised, by the brutality and willful degradation of a population seeking salvation from persecution in their own countries by the supposed bastion of “freedom and justice” that is the United States of America. While this is a series set almost a century ago, there are depressingly current parallels with recent American political and cultural events.
Ok, before I become too caught up in one of my soap box rants, let’s talk about just how good this comic is, because it is really, really good! Anyone who spends more than five minutes in my presence will be able to tell you that I’m a die hard horror fan, but I’m also a really big fan of noir thrillers, going way back to when I was a kid watching the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Robert Mitchum, Lauren Bacall, and Ingrid Bergman on Saturday afternoons with my mum. I remember at the time thinking that these guys were the coolest a man could be, and I learned at an early age that no matter how beautiful a woman is, don’t mess with her because they all seemed to have an ability to exact terrible and deadly vengeance without getting a hair out of place (although I’m fairly sure my wife could give any of them a run for their money).
Growing up, noir evolved, and now there are so many sub genres I’ve lost count, but my love of comics brought me to the likes of Brubaker and Phillips who really capture the soul of the old noir – the Sam Spades and the Philip Marlowes – and it’s because of them that I’m now sitting reading The Good Asian which, even in this first issue, is clearly going to be one of the great noir thrillers.
I was a huge fan of Pornsak Pichetshote’s “Infidel”, and was confident that I knew what to expect in this story but boy was I wrong. This is nothing like I was expecting, and being off balance really made me enjoy this all the more. From the outset, this is a tense, taut and thrilling story. The character development is superb, Edison Hark hits the pages as a fully fleshed three-dimensional character who you immediately connect with. Hark is clearly the smartest person in the room, any room, whatever his end game is. He comes across as calculating every move to get there, and he’s planning to be one step ahead of any trouble that might come his way.
The world building, and atmosphere is also really well done. The emotion, frustration, despair, and fear are almost physical things and I found my fists clenching repeatedly at some of the injustices and behaviours of not just those in authority, but also those who should be fighting for each other. While there is a lot of social commentary even within these first few pages, there is also a tightly written noir thriller that has you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last.
The artwork, design/layouts, and colours are fully embracing the Noir setting but there’s something almost Manga in the delivery of it, certainly in the character design and emphasis points. I’m not 100% certain that this works for me, I think I’m too used to the style of Sean Phillips, Sami Kivella, Darwyn Cooke etc. to fully embrace this unexpected aesthetic, but that isn’t to say that the artwork isn’t good, and it certainly doesn’t detract from the story or jar you out of the narrative.
This is a great thriller. It provides a fascinating commentary on racism and social injustice, both past and present, and it’s a story that you really should be reading.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek
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