Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Johnny Hiro {Half Asian, All Hero} by Fred Chao

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All HeroDescription: Johnny Hiro, a hardworking busboy, lives in Brooklyn with his flighty but lovable girlfriend Mayumi. Every day, he struggles to make ends meet while fighting giant monsters, running over rooftops from crazed waiters, fending off businessmen-turned-samurai, or having the occasional conversation with Judge Judy, Coolio, or Alton Brown.  Johnny Hiro presents the quirky trials and misadventures of a modern-day hero trying to find his slice of the good life. 

Stats: Graphic Novel, 192 pages, First published by Tor Books, July 2012.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For those who would like a preview of the book you can check out a seven page excerpt on the publishers website here. Trust me when I say this does not even begin to show how amazing this art work is. To see something more be sure to also check out Fred Chao's website and witness more of his illustrating super powers. 

"Going out in New York is never easy.
It always involves construction on the 2/3 line
or a Samurai attack. "
People say that New York is a city of dreamers, but all dreams have some basis in reality. Johnny Hiro's reality is how he somehow manages to get himself and anyone in his general vicinity into the most unbelievable situations. (and remarkably everyone lives to tell the tale.)  Sure, Johnny is just a busboy trying to make ends meet along side his girlfriend Mayumi. But when Mayumi gets snatched up from their apartment by Gozadilla (the monster that almost destroyed Tokyo), Johnny knows he has to save her. Through this we get thrown into Johnny's crazy life with one misadventure after another. 

In my many years of reading I've learned that it's very hard to resist anything with what looks like a giant dinosaur on the cover. Johnny Hiro {Half Asian, All Hero} turned out to be much more then just the crazy fantasy romp I was expecting. Mixed in with the attacking Samurai, New York car chases, King Kong spottings, and of course epic Gozadilla battles there was a surprising amount of heart. Although each story in this graphic novel is full of fantastic fantasy we also have the very familiar tale of a young couple in love living in one of the most famously unforgiving cities.

To see reality and fantasy get blended together with so imagination makes this more. It was just crazy enough to be fantasy and yet just grounded enough to be relatable. Johnny may live an action packed life, but he isn't a hero, he's a guy who wants to not die in a samurai attack just like the rest of us. The characters ground the story and the art brought the entire book together. Showing someone running or in the middle of a car chase is something Fred Chao truly excels at. Action can feel like such a struggle in some books, but here it works seamlessly.

Johnny Hiro {Half Asian, All Hero} is a story about interesting characters, doing interesting things, while fighting, and running, and chasing. I enjoyed every moment of reading this. There are so many smaller moments and even smaller details made this magical.   

At the very back of the book there is a page that announces Johnny Hiro {The Skills to Pay the Bills} Summer 2013. I don't know if this date is still a go, but I will surly be keeping an eye out for any future releases from Fred Chao!

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