TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #15 comes out this week, written by Greg Pak with art by Mahmud A. Asrar, on the premise that Marvel’s four most prominent Asian American heroes, plus, um, two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents of Asian descent (neither of them are Ming-Na or Chloe Bennett), get together and…do really Asian American stuff.
For real though, that’s mainly what happens. They eat, and do karaoke, and have a heart-to-heart about their parents. (Parentses?) And it’s delightful because writer Greg Pak really goes there — he has the superheroes doing stuff that all the Asian American comics fans for years have been wondering, “would an Asian American Marvel hero in their street-clothes secret identity do this stuff, as I do?”
I use “would?” because for a long time, Asian American comics fans had to wonder about largely hypothetical Asian American Marvel characters, ’cause there weren’t many of them. Amongst this issue’s superteam — HULK/AMADEUS CHO, MS. MARVEL, SILK, and SHANG-CHI — Shang-Chi is by far the oldest character, the other three, in their Asian incarnations, were only created within the last decade. Iron Fist isn’t an Asian person, ethnically. There was Jubilee and Psylocke (by a technicality) in the X-Men and not a lot else. Oh, I mean, there were always tons of ninjas, and dragons, and giant robots, but most of them were faceless enemies and none were officially Asian American, you get what I’m saying?
Anyway, this issue does have its requisite comic-book action in the form of attacks by alien interlopers, and, in the dinner scene, a clever spoof of the “superheroes fighting” trope that every Asian American person will recognize.
It’s nice to see teenaged Ms. Marvel featured prominently in this team-up, especially taken in context of the historical moment. “Asian American” is a fluid/evolving term over the years, and it didn’t always umbrella “Koreans and Chinese and Pakistani Muslim people hanging out together” — that’s a relatively new thing, and it’s elegantly handled here. Am just a little disappointed that Silk doesn’t seem to do a lot in this story, but last I checked, she turned alternate-universe evil, so maybe I’m missing something there.
My only serious beef with this issue was the briefness of the karaoke scene. As some may be aware, I know a little bit about superheroes singing karaoke, and I’d hope in some alternate-universe version of this issue we’d be treated to something like Silk singing No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs” or XTC’s “Senses Working Overtime” or Hulk doing La Roux’s “Bulletproof” or Ms. Marvel on Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl” (although honestly, she seems more like a Rihanna or Spice Girls kind of gal)…but I get it, there are only 22ish pages in an issue.
The best part is, this team-up is an ongoing arc over several issues of TOTALLY AWESOME HULK, leading up to (presumably) a gigantic battle with aliens on the streets of New York City! YES, has happened a few times before in the Marvel Universe! But NO, never before with all the Asian American characters! Go get it, True Believers!
And yes, for those of you just joining us, in the comics, Hulk is a Korean American guy now. That’s probably not permanent, as few identities in the massive Marvel Universe are, but it’s what’s happening right now.