REVIEW: 'The Good Asian' #1 by Pornsak Pichetshote, Alexandre Tefenkgi, and Lee Loughridge

Writer PORNSAK PICHETSHOTE's long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed INFIDEL with stunning art by ALEXANDRE TEFENKGI (OUTPOST ZERO)! Following Edison Hark-a haunted, self-loathing Chinese-American detective-on the trail of a killer in 1936 Chinatown, THE GOOD ASIAN is Chinatown noir starring the first generation of Americans to come of age under an immigration ban, the Chinese, as they're besieged by rampant murders, abusive police, and a world that seemingly never changes.


Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote

Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi, Lee Loughridge

Letters: Jeff Powell

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: May 5, 2021

Cover Price: $3.99


★★★★★ (5/5)

It's impossible to read 'The Good Asian' and its opening without thinking of the atrocities being committed against Asians in the United States at the time of this writing. The increase of at least 150% in hate crimes against random and innocent Asians and Asian-Americans in the country is a nauseating reality. We're reminded that such abhorrent behavior is not new and never went away completely despite social change efforts over the decades. Being a minority can be a dangerous affair as long as racism and xenophobia fester in a society and it should not be tolerated. 

These facts make what Pornsak Pichetshote writes all the more impactful and damning. Government policies and public attitudes against Asians, the Chinese in particular, created the "first generation to come of age under an immigration ban." It sets the stage for the story of Edison Hark, a Chinese-American from Hawaii, who wields a detective badge in 1936 San Francisco. He's a complicated character straddling multiple worlds but not wholly a member of any one. He's a sell-out to local immigrants and a "coolie" to even his white partner. He's entrenched in a mystery that requires his keen skills of observation and deduction. It's the perfect scenario for a flawed protagonist in a flawed corrupt world to tell a noir crime drama. Pichetshote nails it. 

Hark's mother worked for a millionaire and after she passed he took him in. Hark grew up and made his bones in Honolulu before reaching detective. A breakthrough achievement at the time for a Chinese-American. He's been summoned to San Francisco to help find his adoptive dad's missing maid. Along with a local racist Chinatown detective, Hark has to navigate not only the distrust of locals but the bigots on the force. 

Pichetshote taps into all the traditional characteristics of classic noir, a brilliant but flawed hard-boiled detective, a missing femme fatale tied to a rich man, a shadowy perpetually nighttime landscape, and a mysterious murder plot. The advantage of having writers of color telling traditional stories is the layers of new perspectives given to characters we've been deprived of in the past. Hark's own identity crisis collides with his duties as a detective helping his white father figure track down his Chinese maid while the Chinese in Chinatown are at the mercy of a racist police force. Even though he understands their plight he's resolved to stay above the fray until he's pulled in whether he wants to or not. 

Hand-in-hand with a great noir story you have to have the visual representation to support it. Alexandre Tefenkgi and Lee Loughridge use their talents to create this atmospheric period piece. Tefenkgi captures the '30s brilliantly from fashion to cars to architecture. Loughridge defines scenes with color coded palettes that establish each new scene. Together, they develop a wonderful tempo of action amid a thick cloud of intrigue and danger. Panels shrouded in blackness highlight the moonlit streets of Chinatown, the flashbacks are whitewashed to indicate the past, the clever highlights of Hark's observations told in neat little boxes of orange, all these details say the artists have put more thought and creativity in each panel than your typical Wednesday pull. Jeff Powell's lettering does a lot of the heavy lifting in telling the story as well, alternating from narration to dialogue to exposition. They've elevated this story to the very best the medium has to offer.

'The Good Asian' #1 establishes 'Infidel' writer Pornsak Pichetshote once again as a master of genre with another dark tale with underlining social commentary. This time it's noir crime fiction that's as engrossing and stylish as any we've ever read. Tefenkgi and Loughridge create a moody and menacing atmosphere that drips with style and creativity. 'The Good Asian' delivers a captivating noir story while shattering preconceived notions about who gets to tell these stories. It's the best debut of the week if not the year. 



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