Spotlight Sunday 5.16.21
DC’s release of a 100-page celebration of Asian Heritage Month means there are spoilers ahead for…
“Knights of the so-called Brotherhood. Your sophomoric attempts to hypersexualize me and my Asian sisters are pathetic. Be grateful I don’t slay you where you stand.”
Let me get the (kind of) bad stuff out of the way first. While it’s cool that DC put this out there – especially given the opportunity it represents for the creators involved – in many ways it feels like a bare minimum effort, and it kind of sucks that something like this has to exist. If this were just another anthology special like the many that DC releases every year, serving as a kind of “bonus” that supplements the monthly books DC publishes it would be one thing, but given that it features a lot of characters who do not appear anywhere else with any regularity – and some, like Grace Choi, who I haven’t seen in years – it feels less like a celebration and more like a token gesture. (See also next month’s Pride anthology.)
With that out of the way, though, I have to say that it’s a welcome gesture. I’m glad to see these characters getting attention, and I have to hold out hope that this is just the beginning, especially since this issue brought us the introduction of a new character, and some developments that will have an impact on some ongoing titles. And while there’s always more to do, it’s worth celebrating when something gets done.
Especially when it involves a Cassandra Cain Batgirl story. (In this case, a fun little story that focuses on her struggle to master the use of words, contrasted by some characters who seem to struggle with not using words.)
The problem with the anthology format is that not every story in it has room to breathe, as some of the stories are only a few pages long, but viewed from another perspective that’s actually a good thing, as DC has too many Asian characters to fit them all into a 100-page comic. There’s a lot to work with, and there are a lot creators to do the work, so here’s hoping we’ll see that happen going forward.
Because there are a lot of stories in this volume – and I’m lazy – I won’t touch on them all, but I’ll add that I found the story featuring “Shoes,” the young protégé of Catwoman was intriguing, and it was fun to see the young Green Lantern Tai Pham outside of the context of the YA graphic novel in which he was introduced.
It was also nice to see Kenan again, and the debut of the Monkey Prince was also a fun little story.
The action in each story ranges from big and comic-booky to small and intimate, and each story offers an exploration of heritage and what it means to each individual character.
I also thought it was a nice touch that food was such an important component in many of the stories, given that it’s one of the primary ways in which so many of us interact with Asian culture.
The book starts off with a personal essay from Taiwanese American author and journalist Jeff Yang.
This book comes at a time when Earth has been invaded by a microscopic swarm that has frozen us in place, depriving us of human contact, shutting down society, and killing millions. And when Asian Americans have been beset by a much more familiar horror of xenophobia, bigotry, and assaults that have targeted the most vulnerable members of our community.
In short, it comes at a time when we’ve never needed superheroes more – a time when we’re fitfully trying to wake from a nightmare, and we need something, anything, to give us back our dreams.
The celebration is rounded out with character bios for many of DC’s Asian characters, some of whom do not appear directly in the stories in the anthology.
In between stories we’re presented with some pin-up pages, such as these absolutely gorgeous pin-ups of Lady Shiva and Cheshire by Kevin Wada and Jen Bartel on facing pages.
Overall, it was a fun not-so little book, and a nice – and important – gesture that will ideally lead to some changes to the regular monthly titles, because as the book itself says, representation matters. But it doesn’t just matter once a year.