Tai Pham isn’t looking for trouble. He’s just living his life: helping in his beloved grandmother’s store, filling sketchbooks with drawings, and hanging out with his best friends. But sometimes, trouble finds him anyway, like when vandals target the store with thrown bricks and racist graffiti. Or when his grandmother passes away, and her jade ring starts following Tai around. It seems he’s been chosen to take over her role as a Green Lantern. But how can Tai become a member of a superpowered intergalactic peacekeeping force? He’s only thirteen!

The Green Lantern Corps is skeptical about bringing in a recruit so young. Still, they begin to train him, teaching him how to use his powers. But Tai has to keep up with his regular life, too. Which is how he and his two closest friends interview billionaire entrepreneur Xander Griffin. Why would a man like him take the time to talk to a group of kids working on a school project? Well, it turns out Xander Griffin knew Tai’s grandmother. What exactly was the connection? And what about Griffin’s plans to revitalize and remake Tai’s neighborhood? Should Tai be excited, or worried?

The story in Green Lantern: Legacy is fairly simple, as origin stories often are, especially when aimed at kids. However, it touches on some big themes: looking out for others, learning to trust and rely on your friends, and being willing to challenge authority when necessary. The story also spotlights the conflict that can arise between innovation and tradition. Will Tai support a top-down revamp of his neighborhood that could make it safer, but would also strip the citizens of their privacy and the community of its identity? Or will he follow in his grandmother’s footsteps, doing the hard, slow work to improve the neighborhood from the ground up?

Tai Pham is the first Asian-American Green Lantern, part of DC’s welcome diversification of the franchise. Minh Lê and Andie Tong have found many ways to naturally incorporate Tai’s Vietnamese-American identity into the story. His grandmother describes using her Green Lantern abilities to help her family and others safely come to America during wartime. Tai’s family encounters racism, as when vandals spray-paint the words “go home” on his grandmother’s store. Characters sometimes use Vietnamese terms, which are translated in a glossary at the end of the story. When he and his friends redesign his Green Lantern costume, the ever-artistic Tai adds some Vietnamese-style flair.

Familiarity with the Green Lantern franchise is not a requirement for enjoying this book, but will definitely offer readers some perks. For instance, Green Lantern fans will likely enjoy seeing popular character John Stewart helping to train Tai. The Phams even have a cat named Jordan, probably a shout-out to another well-known Lantern, Hal Jordan.

The art of Green Lantern: Legacy is bright, clear, and expressive. The characters are easy to tell apart, and the action scenes are easy to read visually. Colorist Sarah Stern uses a vibrant and varied color palette, and she excels at portraying all the glowing green energy and alien architecture that come up so often in a Green Lantern comic.

This is a rich, refreshing addition to DC’s new spate of graphic novels for kids and teens. (The end material of this book includes a sneak peek at another such book, Batman: Overdrive.) Hand it to fans of Super Sons and other kid-friendly superhero comics.

Green Lantern: Legacy
By Minh Lê
Art by Andie Tong
ISBN: 9781401283551
DC Kids, 2020

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NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Traits: Vietnamese American
Creator Highlights: Own Voices, BIPOC Creator

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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