Comics Review – Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Well I loved this.

I’d been putting off reading this for no real good reason. It’s been at the library available for most of the past year and I’ve really liked Yang’s previous original graphic novels. Based on the name and cover I was vaguely aware Dragon Hoops had something to do with basketball. I love basketball…it’s one of the few things I love as much as reading.

Upon finally picking up the book, however, I was surprised just how much about real-world basketball Dragon Hoops is. It intersects with hoops culture in a way I wasn’t expecting. In Dragon Hoops, Yang chronicles the journey of an elite California boys High School basketball team seeking redemption and a state title. It’s based on a real team and real players. I was shocked when Yang first introduced the best players on the team and saw that one of the primary characters was Ivan Rabb! I remember watching Ivan Rabb highlights on YouTube from his High School days!

The combination of two of my greatest interests immediately sucked me in. It’s a treat to see Yang go from chronicling the early days of basketball, to spending two pages on a Lakers role player from some of my favorite teams (Brian Shaw!), to talking about getting his start writing Superman. It’s a well written book, to be sure, but it really hit all of the right buttons specifically for me. I kept chuckling every time the Dragons’ story intersected with someone like top-prospect-turned-NBA-star Ben Simmons.

If you aren’t a fan of basketball (or sports in general), never fear, Yang inserts himself as a vehicle for the reader who doesn’t care about the game. Indeed, one of my favorite parts of Dragon Hoops is seeing Yang get drawn into the team and the game as he follows their progress. The book also touches on a lot of themes that are familiar from all walks of life. There are frank discussions about racism, religion, dealing with character failings in your heroes, and personal growth. Yang often breaks the story by paneling his internal monologue on what, and how, sensitive topics should be included. It was a fascinating insight into his writing process.

This was just a great read for me. Any book that fits Superman, Magic Johnson, George Mikan, and more in a comic book format was just never going to fail to deliver based on my personal interests. Dragon Hoops is funny, heartwarming, inspirational, and thought-provoking. It’s long for a comic but it’s well worth your time.

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