In New Super-Man written by American born Chinese writer Gene Luen Yang and drawn by Vicktor Bogdanovic we are taken out of our typical location to China and find a vastly different, almost polar opposite Superman. Kong Kenan is a portrayed as a bully in the opening of the book where we find him berating his classmate Lixin. Our hero is written and illustrated deftly as a self-absorbed narcissistic jerk.
As the story progresses, we find subtle hints into the deeper psyche of Kong when the famous Chinese villain Blue Condor attacks Lixin and he steps in to save him. At this point, I actually became intrigued at the book’s direction due to the Kong’s internal monologue where we find he is quite afraid but still compelled to act. Although rather expected, Kong finds himself post-heroics in a crushing gaze with a young reporter Laney Lan (sounds familiar huh). The story continues to find Kong taking his acts of heroism home to his father only to meet disappointment. It seems his father in a very relatable “Western” way has theories of a shadow section of the government doing, “Really Evil Stuff.”
Leaving his father in a state of disappointment this very real governmental entity, The Ministry of Self-Reliance finds Kong and makes a proposal to grant him God-like powers. We learn a little about what could possibly drive Luen’s character when references are made to the loss of his mother and the hint of resentment he feels toward the Lixin family’s wealth as well as the family’s role in her death. His socioeconomic status conjures sympathy from the reader and certainly allows you to better understand his overtly alpha behavior.
Ultimately, the government’s experiment is a success and Kong emerges as the “New Super-Man” and (spoilers) we find this is not China’s first attempt at creating a hero. As our hero begins to learn of his new found power and continues to balk at authority we end with the arrival of two very familiar JLA analogues . . .the JLC?
In the end, I found the book to be a bit predictable but I am still intrigued as we flesh out the psychological drives of the new character. Comics in general can use a dose of diversity, not for the sake of diversity but for a new and different course of stories. I am happy to see this new iteration and will give it some time before making a final personal judgment on the title. The art by Bogdanovic is excellent and the writing is equally well done. Bogdanovic’s simple portrayal of emotion in faces is my favorite part of this first issue. In each case a reader can clearly see and feel the emotion, which is an excellent compliment to the dialogue. I like full splash pages which feel kinetic and I got several of these in New Super-Man. The writing gave me more than enough character building with the initial cast to ensure I will be back for another issue. My rating reflects only my hesitancy until a few more issues hit and I can really crawl into what the team is going to do with Super-Man and the aforementioned JLC.
Definite Pull for this week and the next issue for me!
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Penciller: Viktor Bogdanovic
Inker: Richard Friend
Letters: Dave Sharpe