Writer/Artist: Fred Chao
Colors: Dylan Babb
Publisher: Adhouse Books
With a tagline like, "half asian, all hero," you get a pretty good idea of what Johnny Hiro is all about the moment you look at the cover. Itís a funny, irreverent romp that takes its cue from the culture created by Asian Pacific conventions that have (fortunately) bled into the U.S. in countless ways. Johnny Hiro has action. It has stunts. It has a great sense of the ludicrous. And, of course, it has a huge freakiní lizard.
Johnny and his girlfriend Mayumi live in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn. Johnny is of Asian descent but is so thoroughly American that he dreams about things such as "yo mamma" jokes. Mayumi is a Japanese immigrant with an accent that somehow manages to come across as being adorable without being demeaning. One thing that both of them have in common is that they are extraordinarily brave people living normal lives. Which is great for them when that giant lizard I mentioned earlier shows up.
Despite the boggling questions that must come up when a giant lizard breaks down your apartment wall to steal your girlfriend (what the hell?), Johnny springs into action to save her, wearing pajamas and his girlfriendís rabbit slippers. Carried in the claws of a 10 story-tall lizard, Mayumiís main preoccupation is that Johnny not stretch out those slippers. From there, the narrative jumps to bits of the coupleís past, going over a few of Johnnyís near death experiences, and reflecting on Mayumiís heroic heritage.
First and foremost, the book is great fun to read because itís absurd but still manages to have elements of heroism in it. Johnny jumps from the top of his apartment building in his pajamas to grab onto the monster that just kidnapped his girl, knowing that such an action will most likely lead to his death. But he does it anyway. The flashback that reveals the monsterís motivation from coming all the way to Brooklyn is even better. I wonít go into that, though, as itís one of the best bits of the book.
Another reason Johnny Hiro is so much fun is that it blends the subversive and the idealistic. It praises aspects of both Asian and U.S. culture, while at the same time making fun and deriding them. After the giant lizard shows up, it naturally does massive amounts of property damage. At the head of the fire trucks and police cars that roll in to secure the area is the limousine of Mayor Bloomberg himself. But after leading the teams to begin restoration of damage public property, the mayor explains to Johnny why he canít help fix his apartment.
All of this, combined with some very good art, makes Johnny Hiro a fun book thatís suitable for just about anyone. In the words of Mayumi at the end of issue #1, ďItís beautifulĒ.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at http://madbastard.hypersites.com
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