Twelve-year-old Tai Pham lives in the apartment above his grandmother’s store, where his bedroom is crammed with sketchpads and comic books. When Tai inherits his grandmother’s jade ring, he soon finds out it’s more than it appears.
No longer are DC Comics young adult and children’s graphic novels carving a niche for themselves as excellent character portraits. But with books like Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, The Oracle Code and Superman Smashes The Klan they are also tackling a number of difficult social issues.
With Oracle Code it was perception of the disabled, with Tempest Tossed its the treatment of refugees. Now, with Green Lantern: Legacy we’re confronting a similar issue to Superman Smashes The Klan.
Tai Pham and his family are Vietnamese-American. Descended from Vietnam refugees who travelled to America under harrowing circumstances and were able to build a life for themselves.
In the present day, the family still face the kind of racial hatred that many black and Asian-American families face. Tai’s grandmother’s shop is regularly attacked by a group of locals who demand that they “go home.” It’s a stark and heartbreaking message for a family living several generations in what the country they call “home.”
But before I give you the impression that Green Lantern: Legacy is going to bring you down, think twice. Minh Lê‘S story is instead incredibly personal but equally hopeful. It’s family orientated at its core and brilliantly moulds the Green Lantern mythology around it.
All of the aspects of a Green Lantern story remain intact with a couple of cameos to boot. But even in this relatively short story Lê is able to craft a brand new Lantern who feels like a true member of the Corps.
Tai’s strong bond with his grandmother is touching as a reader, there’s a purity to their interactions which feels like it must be very much drawn from Lê‘s own family experiences. When she sadly passes away it’s managed delicately so as to, again, not overwhelm the books young audience but also not to sugarcoat the inevitable loss of a grandparent.
Something which I found truly touching about this story was Tai’s friends attending his grandmother’s funeral as a sign of support. Again it’s handled tactfully and is perfectly pitched for its audience but it also carries a strong message of friendship and family.
There’s a strong sense of Asian culture running through the story, from the costumes to the set design and beyond. It steeps Green Lantern: Legacy in an incredibly rich culture but without exploiting it for the sake of appealing to an Asian audience.
To me, a White-British male, this book feels perfectly pitched and perfectly accessible to all audiences.
The Green Lantern style action is almost secondary to all of the beautiful family relationships on show. But don’t be mistaken, the book has guts when it counts. There are some lovely moments as Tai is trained by John Stewart and a fellow Green Lantern, the moments are twinned with Tai researching a school project on innovation.
Being a more mature reader than the audience at which Green Lantern: Legacy is pitched it does feel like the story signposts its eventual reveal. But I still got a kick out of it when it happened. Whilst the villain is a take on what we’ve seen before the character feels organic to the story and in keeping with the overall tone.
In fact Green Lantern: Legacy ends up feeling like a very familiar origin story but wrapped in a brilliantly unique and original story. Perhaps that is where one final comparison to Superman Smashes The Klan comes in to play. Legacy feels like the jumping off point for a brand new series more than a one-off story.
Heartwarming and bold, Green Lantern: Legacy is a fun, family-orientated story for readers young and old.
Green Lantern: Legacy is written by Minh Lê with illustration by Andie Tong.
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