THE GOOD ASIAN #1/ Script by PORNSAK PICHETSHOTE/ Art by ALEXANDRE TEFENKGI/ Color Art by LEE LOUGHRIDGE/ Letters and Design by JEFF POWELL/ Cover Art by DAVE JOHNSON/ Variant Cover by SANA TAKEDA/ Historical Consultation by GRANT DIN/ Logo Design and Production by ERIKA SCHNATZ/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
It’s a cruel irony that Asian crime-solvers became a popular trope during the 1930’s and 1940’s, despite America’s antipathy towards Asian immigrants and Asian-American citizens and the fact that there were no Asian-American peace officers in the continental US until 1957. It didn’t help matters that characters like Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto were played by Caucasian actors and presented as racist caricatures in comics and cartoons. Author Pornsak Pichetshote raises these points in the afterward of The Good Asian #1, while explaining the core concept of this series: a Noir mystery set in 1936 Los Angeles’ Chinatown.
Our hero is Edison Hark; a Chinese-American who made police detective in Hawaii decades before it would be possible anywhere else in America. While the story opens with Edison coping with the bureaucracy that makes life as a citizen difficult and life as an immigrant impossible, he’s soon drawn into a murder mystery that will take him into a part of La-La Land that the tourists don’t see and the cops rarely visit. It’s a new world for Hark, but “being yellow while acting blue’s the same everywhere” though Hark feels conflicted about where his loyalties should lie. Pichetshote’s script manages a tricky balancing act, introducing Edison to the reader with a minimum of exposition while establishing the setting without getting overly preachy regarding the problems of the time period.
The artwork evokes the spirit of the times, with Alexandre Tefenkgi’s artwork having the roughly hewn look of a Golden Age pulp comic or stills from a classic detective movie. The coloration by Lee Loughridge aids in establishing this aura, with most of the coloration being muted to the point of being monochromatic The one exception to this is the strong red tint used to highlight Edison’s noticing a clue.
The Good Asian offers a unique spin on a classic formula, ironically updating a tired trope for the modern age, while addressing the sins of the past. While it is likely to only appeal to genre enthusiasts, fans of noir detective stories will find this to be an engaging change of pace, If the rest of this series continues in this vein, Edison Hark will be able to stand alongside Spade and Marlowe in the annals of great detectives.