Review: Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology

Secret Identities/ Edited by Jeff Yang, Perry Shen, Keith Chow, & Jerry Ma/ 2009

secret identitiesThere is a tremendous amount of Asian American talent in the comic book industry. From writers to editors, and inkers to pencilers, more than likely you’ll find some dope Asian American artists. Even more than that, many of the die-hard fans of comic books are Asians Americans. One of my favorite comic book artists growing up was Jim Lee and I have stated many times that my favorite era was the 90’s where Jim Lee’s X-Men designs always held a special place. 

Even though there are plenty of Asian American artists in the comic book industry, and many more Asian American fanboys, there is very little representation of Asian American characters in the comic book universe. It seems a little strange that a huge portion of the brightest artists/ writers and the greatest fans in the comic book world do not have a set of superhero characters that is ingrained in the Asian American community, that they can claim as their own. 

Actually it’s not that strange. Take a gander at current movies and television and you’ll more than likely see that the Asian American community is overlooked. Our characters are limited to secondary characters, but never the main person. So it makes sense that it translates to the comic book world as well. 

The creators of Secret Identities, Jeff Yang, Keith Chow, Jerry Ma, and Perry Shen, hoped to take the first step in changing this perception by bringing together some of the best Asian American talent to create an anthology of 26 stories revolving around Asian American Superheroes. The result is a truly inspiring collection of stories that feature the Asian American community. It is a must read for any comic book fan. (Hit the jump for the rest of the review)

Each story that is written is crafted beautifully and the artwork is gorgeous. You can really tell that the writers and artists involved in this project put their hearts and souls into their works. This is a good thing as it shows the passion that  Asian American writers and artists have about their communities. 

Even though I enjoyed each and every story, there were a couple of stand outs in this anthology that I really dug. 

“9066” written by Jerry Ma with art by Jonathan Tsuei is a nice contemplative piece about Japanese American Internment and how even a superhero can find himself singled out by his peers. 

“The Blue Scorpion & Chung” written by Gene Yang with art by Sonny Liew is a great story that is an obvious reference to Kato and the Green Hornet. 

“16 Miles” written by Perry Shen with art by Sarah Sapang is an homage to James Kim, the CNet editor who lost his life to trek out in the cold in the Pacific Northwest in order to find help for his family. 

“Learn to Share” written by Keiko Agena (from Gilmore Girls fame) with art by Ming Doyle, is about a very young girl saved from the sex trade and her special power of sharing.

“Sampler” written by Jimmy Aquino with art by Erwin Haya, is about a strange superpower that a girl who works at a dry cleaner has. 

I didn’t go in depth into those stories too much, because I really think folks should check out this anthology and read this for themselves. I will say the stories I mentioned above really stuck out in my mind because of the issues that were presented through superheroes and the way they provoke serious thought about issues in the community. Well… all the stories mentioned above except “Sampler” While “Sampler” wasn’t as thought provoking as the other stories mentioned, it was really fun story with witty writing and an art style that I absolutely loved. Plus, it’s a good way to show that Asian American superheroes can be pretty entertaining.

While I think it will take more than just one anthology to help bring more visibility to the Asian American community in terms of entertainment, this is definitely an effective tool in helping spread the word to the masses. 

Can’t wait for volume 2!

One thought on “Review: Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology

  1. This is an excellent book. I discovered it through a Facebook fanpage that some of my friends had joined, then I ordered it. My favorite story is “The Citizen.”

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