Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote / Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi / Image
During a time where #StopAsianHate is trending due to tragic circumstances, I keep thinking about all of the circumstances that led up to it. A difficult confluence of events that has a long and storied history. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to read The Good Asian and talk with both the writer and the artist after doing so, but I am only now getting around to reviewing the book and if nothing else, I am thankful for the opportunity to give a spotlight on this comic, slated to come out May 5th (just in time for Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month).
The Good Asian is a noir comic set in the 1930’s, in an era where the US had effectively instigated an immigration ban against China, based on the seeds sown in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Edison Hark is the titular “Good Asian,” a Chinese-American raised by white parents who, like many before, thinks the best way to help his community is to become a cop and solve crimes in Chinatown. But of course, it’s never that simple and never that easy, and Hark is embroiled with conflict after conflict in one of the slickest looking comics of 2021.
Tefenkgi’s artwork and Loughridge’s color jump off the page immediately. The opening page is a tour de force, immediately establish the dark tone, the time era, and hustle and bustle of San Francisco. It is striking and iconic and the energy in the visual is carried forth with gusto. Every page captures that film noir feel, and it’s a very easy book to lose yourself in with the drama and action.
Tefenkgi and Loughridge really let Pichetshote’s story shine. There is an authenticity that reverberates through the page. The internal monologue of Hark falls perfectly in line with his predecessors in J.J. Gittes and Sam Spade, and there is such attention to the internal struggle he is clearly going through with his unique position in society. But getting to see Hark navigate the city and be a detective is nothing short of enthralling. Hark’s smart and quirk witted, and Pichetshote’s narrative constantly grabs you by the trench coat you’re inexplicably wearing while reading this book.
There is certainly a little bit of a personal bias when I talk about this book. This is a book that is personally targeted to all of my personal sensibilities. It is a thrilling piece of genre work that stars an incredible Asian-American lead that goes to great lengths to be an insightful examination of a period of time that is often glossed over in the history books. There is a timeliness in the book that was apparent even before I got to hear firsthand about the diligent effort that went into creating this narrative, and it’s impossible not to identify this as my new personal favorite comic.
This is a fantastic mystery story and even more fantastic examination of Chinese-American life in the late 1930’s. This is a book that swings for the fences and has managed to land in the stars because of its ambition and the clear amount of work that went into it. It’s not too late to add this to your pull. I know I will be.
10 “Noir Sequences” out of 10