Tony Black reviews New Super-Man #2…
“Made in China” part two! The New Super-Man must face off against the Justice League of China? When Kenan Kong was imbued with the powers of Superman, he didn’t waste any time using them! Now it’s up to the New Bat-Man and New Wonder-Woman of his home country to bring our hero back down to earth—just in time to stop the attack of the deadly Sunbeam!
SEE ALSO: Check out a preview of New Super-Man #2
One of the most unusual new Rebirth titles from DC was the New Super-Man launch from writer Gene Yuen Lang, and part two of ‘Made in China’ continues the origin story of Chinese superhero Kong Kenan as he’s indoctrinated into the incumbent Justice League of China, and Lang’s issue is a fascinating mix of appealing to a growing Chinese market hungry for Western cultural material, while also being a clear satire of that same market. The very fact Kong is encouraged by the rather nefarious Ministry of Self-Reliance, who make him into a Superman replica, to look at images of the American Justice League is proof of this – specifically when in dialogue Ministry doctor Omen explains how Chinese wisdom suggests the best way to ideologically defeat the West is by “beating them at their own game”. When you take out Kong’s journey, there’s actually some witty and political subtext to what Lang is doing here which makes it more enjoyable.
Straight up though, face on, New Super-Man is the story of, no less, a new Superman and Kong Kenan continues to have a long long way to go to capturing our hearts like Clark Kent did; he’s a surly, rude, egocentric and arrogant young man who hasn’t earned the powers he’s been bestowed, making him unafraid to mock the Chinese Bat-Man or trade barbs with the Chinese Wonder-Woman who he’s forced to work with here in stopping the first super villain of the peace, a female called Sunbeam. Lang however crucially ensures we’re frequently reminded Kong is an upstart, a cocky kid who is all front in many ways – his mother died tragically and it still haunts him, and he’s seeking the attention of a largely absent father who ironically enough is looking into the very institution that is giving these new Chinese heroes their powers.
Kong may be unlikeable but there’s enough of a clear arc to make him ultimately redeemable in the long run, the character having many places to grow. Viktor Bogdanovic draws Kong and the other heroes vividly but with a definite hint of Eastern influence, without tipping into obviousness or cliche – and as Lang keeps the plot moving alongside Kong’s immersion into the ‘JLC’, it allows for some fun panels before building to a cliffhanger which already is taking this Super-Man on a very different direction, more akin to a man of iron from a different comic book universe…
Though it may be too basic a story for some, with too unlikeable a character in the protagonist Kong, New Super-Man is uniquely different and well written enough by Lang to be an enjoyable part of the DC Rebirth project. With an obvious vein of East-West satire lurking beneath the superheroic action, and plenty of character development being laid for future growth and change, there’s enough here to keep going back to, with the promise of really finding its feet.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/197064794″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=fale” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]