The Good Asian #1
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer and Designer: Jeff Powell
“Chinatown Noir”. The phrase, penned by the writer, says everything. Noir dominated culture for decades in books, comics, movies, and radio shows. Trench coats and self loathing monologues, punctuated with murder and dames. The Good Asian contains all of those elements, plus racism and broken family dynamics.
The Good Asian opens with our hero, Edison Hark, sitting in a Chinese barracks at an immigration camp on Angel Island, a real immigrant detention center in 1936. The comic gives the reader some background on the state of the Chinese in America in the 30’s. Spoilers: its not good. Edison gets sprung, and he heads to San Francisco.
His mission is simple: find Ivy Chen. Ivy was his guardian/step father’s upstairs maid. They were close, but had a spat and Ivy left. Eddy works with the local police and the residents of Chinatown, playing both sides the best he can and hating himself for it. The town has no love for a Chinese cop. Murder and hypocrisy ensue, and the issue ends with Hark deciding which side matters more.
Pornsak Pichetshote returns with a vengeance. After redefining horror comics with Infidel, Pichetshote turns his eye for genre defining and modern sensibilities towards noir mystery. Pichetshote spins a hell of a yarn. This story promises the twists and power of the Jack Nicholson classic, Chinatown. Hark lives and breathes on the page. He carries insecurities, self loathing, and a good heart in equal parts. He’s a man trying to do the right thing, in a world that will never accept him. And he rocks that hat.
In order to ground this book in fact, a historical consultant named Grant Din was hired. Din clearly inputted with important details, particularly regarding Angel Island and the California culture’s mood towards AAPI, particularly the Chinese. I love the idea of a Historical Consultant for a period comic, and I hope it catches on in the industry.
The art team aced their assignment. The character designs and cityscape perfectly nail their time period, while allowing for seamless 21st Century touches like Frankie Carroway’s hair. While the comic isn’t in in black and white per se, Loughridge dramatically tints the panels, creating a stylish yet similar effect of one color dominating the panel at a time. Blood stands as the only burst of color on the page. Powell’s lettering and design drive the era home. The book oozes noir sophistication.
Verdict: Buy! This book nails noir so well, you can hear the music in your head as Edison narrates. The issue effortlessly blends history and mystery to create an intelligent and detailed world. Pichetshote proves again that he understands a story and this country’s racial past and complexities like few do.