A few weeks back, we posted about Greg Pak teasing the cover of Totally Awesome Hulk #15, in which Amadeus Cho — aka The Hulk — was joined by Ms. Marvel, Shang Chi, and Silk. Never before had so many Asian American superheroes been gathered on the cover of a mainstream comic book. I recently had a chance to preview the issue — which hits stands this Wednesday, January 25 — and I was actually moved to tears at how resonant it was to see these characters embody being unapologetically Asian American.
Featuring a script by Greg Pak, with art by Mahmud Asrar and Nolan Woodard, Totally Awesome Hulk #15 kicks off the storyline “Big Apple Showdown” typically enough. In media res, the Hulk is in New York City doing battle with an alien from Seknarf Seven when he gets an urgent call on his communicator. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jake Oh has summoned Hulk to a special mission in Flushing where he’s joined by Ms. Marvel, Silk, and Shang-Chi. That’s when Asrar hits us with a panel featuring more Asians Marvel heroes than in all of the MCU movies combined.
The team eventually joins up with Jimmy Woo of the Agents of Atlas1 but they aren’t about to take down HYDRA or any other super villains. Instead, the team is the headliner of a benefit for Asian American bone marrow donors — an issue that is a major priority in many AAPI communities. The heroes put on a show for their adoring crowd and afterward, head off to K-Town for barbecue, karaoke, and talk of parents and love lives.
This is the part where I welled up a bit. Not necessarily because of the dialogue or plot developments but because of the familiarity of it all. I’ve done that post-event walk to West 32nd Street to get Korean food and sing karaoke. Hell, I even did it with Greg at the most recent NYCC!
I’m not saying I was the inspiration for this issue, but I’m not not saying it either!
On a serious note, that’s the thing that hit me while reading. Greg is sharing an authentically Asian American experience with an audience who has never seen these things in a superhero book. I mean, the lone fight scene in the book is peak Asian America.
This could have easily been a story included in Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology but the fact that it’s in a mainstream Marvel comic is tremendously validating.
If I had any gripes about the issue, they would be minor. For instance, would clandestine S.H.I.E.L.D. agents really be treated as celebrities (I guess Asian Americans gotta take what they can get on Earth-616)? And speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., how cool would it have been to see Agent May or Quake (who I’m pretty sure they retconned into being Chloe Bennet)? Finally, if the team was in Flushing, why would they take the train all the way back to Manhattan just to eat in K-Town? Was the craving for kalbi so intense they couldn’t just get soup dumplings instead?
But seriously, it’s an amazing kick-off to the “Big Apple Showdown” storyline in Totally Awesome Hulk, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. More than that, you should read the issue to get a taste of what it’s like to be an Asian American superhero in the Marvel Universe (since you ain’t gonna get that on Netflix).
Totally Awesome Hulk #15 will be available at your local comic retailer, and digitally via Comixology, tomorrow, January 25. When you get your copy, be sure to tweet a picture of yourself with it in-hand at your shop with the hashtag #TotallyAwesome. And tag @TheNerdsofColor. Maybe you’ll win some swag?
- Speaking of Agents Oh and Woo, it’s high time ABC and Marvel Television added those characters to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or on Netflix, no? ↩