Synopsis: Edison Hark—a haunted, self-loathing Chinese-American detective—on the trail of a killer in 1936 Chinatown, THE GOOD ASIAN is Chinatown noir starring the first generation of Americans to come of age under an immigration ban, the Chinese, as they’re besieged by rampant murders, abusive police, and a world that seemingly never changes.
The story begins at Angel Island. A place in San Francisco where Chinese immigrants were often detained and questioned about their origins and their reasons for being in the US. The story takes place during a time when people from China were excluded from being able to live in the USA. Edison Hark is a detective who trained and became a Police Officer in Hawai. The only place where he could legally go into law enforcement. The story begins with him moving back to San Franciso to investigate the disappearance of a Chinese Maid. But pretty quickly the investigation leads him to the discovery of a body. A white American body, which may or may not have been killed by the Tong.
Edison Hark is very much an Asian American version of classic noir detectives such as Sam Spade. Indeed, it’s a dark world that he inhabits. And he walks a fine line between staying on the right side of his white colleagues. While also having to sell out his own people in order to maintain his status. An example of this is during a raid on a Chinese Family. The lead detective thinks they have the information he needs. And he’s pushing hard. In order to spare the woman and child from potential brutality. Hark sells out the older man because he has spotted that he is a drug user a hophead. It’s a very dark world.
Alexandre Tefenkgi does a brilliant job with the art. He captures the period dress of the 1930s brilliantly. Added to that. He also captures the starkness and brutality of the noir genre. The artwork is helped a great deal by a brilliant color wash that mutes the colors somewhat to give the appearance of a sepia black and white movie. In a sense. The artwork and settings in this book are very much a character in their own right.
From the very first page. Where you see a Chinese man being interrogated by authorities at Angel Island. It immediately transports you to the period and gives insight into what it must have been like for Chinese people back then.
This is a fantastic opening issue that draws the reader into a 1930s detective story, which digs a little deeper than the old movies would. Getting a perspective on what it took for Edison Hark to exist among Americans in a world that was far more racist than now gives this story more of an edge. The fact Pornsak Pichetshote used dialogue from actual transcripts from Angel Island was a brilliant touch.
Unfortunately, I never got to read the first Edison Hark story Infidel. But do plan on doing so. It was Nicholas Yane’s interview with Pornsak Pichetshote that drew me to this book. Plus the fact that I sometimes enjoy a bit of Noir fiction.
Overall. This first issue of ‘The Good Asian’ sets the world and story up brilliantly. I was left wanting to know what was coming next. I also appreciated the addition of the writer’s notes and observation on the last couple of pages, which filled you in on a little of the history that the book is grounded in.