When his grandmother passes away, aspiring comic artist Tai Pham inherits her old jade ring. Turns out, it’s a lot more than it appears! Tai finds himself inducted into the Green Lantern Space Corps, with veteran Lantern John Stewart as his new mentor. Tai is very confused. It appears that there was much his grandmother didn’t tell him while she was still alive. In the wake of her death, vandalism against her beloved shop, the Jade Market, has gotten worse, and there is talk of it being torn down to make room for new development called The Gold Coast. A young businessman named Xander Griffin is the one who offered to buy the shop. He seems nice enough, but can Tai trust him? Is he a mentor too, like John, or does he just want to get close to Tai to get what he wants and destroy the Pham legacy?
It’s surprising that this is a middle-grade graphic novel. It was written so beautifully and eloquently about many issues: death of a loved one, accepting responsibility, and listening to your own instincts even in the face of adversity. While these issues can be very heavy, Minh Lê’s writing is heartwarming and compassionate, never talking down to his audience.
We also see here an age-appropriate look at what it means to be a person of color, in this case Asian, in America. Readers see Tai’s grandmother’s journey to America and her dogged pursuit of building her dream from the ground up. We see the Pham family struggle to decide whether to sell the Jade Market in the name of “progress” or to fight for what they love. This gentle look at gentrification is presented in a way that the target audience will understand, and will make for a great talking point in class or family discussions.
Andie Tong’s art is lovely. The lineart fluctuated depending on the setting, which was a cool design choice that subtly let us know of a paradigm shift. The lineart is messier, a little more chaotic, in the real world; in Tai’s imagination and in the realm of the Green Lanterns, it’s a little cleaner and more focused. There are also a couple of fun Easter eggs for long-term GL fans sprinkled in.
This heartfelt tale, of a welcome new POC in the superhero genre, will be beloved by fans both young and old.
Lê, Minh, and Andie Tong. Green Lantern: Legacy. 2020.