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Review: New Super-Man #1


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By Andy Frisk
July 13, 2016 - 20:25

In the first issue of a comic that at first superficially appeared to be an uninspired attempt by the DC Comics Rebirth movement to capitalize on Chinese culture and markets by introducing a knock-off Superman character, DC Comics and Gene Luen Yang do something just short of amazing in New Super-Man #1 by introducing a unique set of characters that are familiar to what Superman readers expect from a character named "superman," but who simultaneously shatter all conventions and expectations.

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What's Happening: Kong Kenan becomes a social media hero when he pelts one of the "first American-style super villains" in China with a soda can thus saving the focus of his bullying, Lixin (a fellow classmate and son of the man who works for China's biggest airline) from possible death (or at least kidnapping) at the hands of Blue Condor (the aforementioned super villain) who "shows up every few months to terrorize the rich and powerful." All this leads to Kenan becoming the New Super-Man when he is recruited by the Ministry of Self-Reliance (a shadowy Chinese government organization Kenan's conspiracy theory obsessed father is determined to unmask) to undergo a dangerous scientific procedure to turn him into China's version of Superman.

The Writing: Putting aside the foolish cliches (Kong Kenan/Clark Kent and Laney Lan/Lois Lane) and obvious nods towards the overall Superman mythos (Kenan is pretty obviously based upon the 90s Superboy character spiritually), Gene Luen Yang (Avatar The Last Airbender, Superman Vol. 3) crafts a multilayered introduction to what is one of the first really interesting diversity  characters in DC Comics' recent history. This is not because New Super-Man #1 is simply the introduction to a Chinese Superman, it is because New Super-Man #1 is a brilliant introduction to a new character who allegorically embodies the affect that American pop culture has on Chinese (and indeed world) pop culture in terms of it's being copied and remade, but fundamentally remaining true to its original essence. Super-Man/Kong Kenan is an America idea reworked into a Chinese concept that is young, brash and irreverent, but wholesome at its core. There's so much going on this first issue metaphorically and allegorically that it's too much to delve into here, but it will be fascinating to see how Yang expounds upon this brilliant concept in issue #2 and beyond. 

The Artwork: Viktor Bogdanovic captures the city of Shanghai well with his clear and crisp pencil work. He also manages to capture the spirit of Yang's characters through his physical portrayals of Kena, Lixin, as well as Laney Lan and Kenan's father. His rendered facial expressions border on the cartoonish, but they add a well placed sense of lightness to the story that befits the childlike attitudes of Kenan and Lixin's personalities. Once the super hero feats of super ability get going, Bodganovic makes an excellent transition from drawing people standing around talking to flying, leaping, and frying things with their heat vision.

The Verdict: After experiencing complete and utter disinterest in the whole DC Comics Rebirth concept behind New Super-Man #1 when it was announced, I am now totally hooked. Bring on the Chinese Justice League.

Rating: 9 /10


Last Updated: December 31, 2019 - 20:28

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